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Ryan Byrne/INPHO Ireland Women suffered a heavy defeat to France this year.
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Development of Irish women's rugby is a 'long-term project,' says Nucifora
Ireland finished third in the Six Nations this year but suffered a heavy defeat to France.

THE IRFU BELIEVES the development of women’s rugby is “a long-term project” amidst ongoing suggestions that Ireland Women should become a semi-professional or professional side to compete with the likes of England, France, and New Zealand.

IRFU performance director David Nucifora yesterday reiterated his belief that Irish rugby’s focus should be on growing the number of players in the women’s game before thinking about professionalism.

Ireland finished third in the Women’s Six Nations again this year behind England, who are professional, and France, who are on semi-professional contracts. Adam Griggs’ side suffered a heavy defeat to the French during the condensed championship.

That loss led to fresh calls for the IRFU to brings in contracts for its female players in order to allow them to train and recover to the same level as the best teams in the world.

However, Nucifora says Irish rugby needs to focus on its own development plan to grow playing numbers first.

“We’ve got to be realistic about what our starting point is, with the number of players that we have,” said Nucifora when asked how soon Ireland can compete with the likes of England and France.

“In some ways, it’s no different to the men’s game in how we want to broaden our talent pool. We’ve got to give better access to the game for the young girls and women and then support their development.

“You’ve got to build something that’s sustainable. At the moment as the game continues to grow at the elite level, the number of competitions that people are wanting teams to compete in… we’re like other countries, we’re stretched at the moment and we’re trying to catch up.

“To catch up and make it sustainable, we’ve got to invest in those underpinning structures of the game. We can’t just keep cherry-picking and put teams together that will continue to try and compete.

the-ireland-team-celebrate-after-the-game Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ireland Women celebrate third place in the Six Nations. Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

“We have to invest, build those pathways to competitions and develop things, so that is a long-term project.

“The short-term reality is you have got to keep finding ways to compete, you’ve got to remain competitive while you’re doing that. That’s our challenge, we’re doing a reasonable job at the moment.

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“Someone described us as the best of the rest, that’s OK – it’s good to be the best of the rest, but we want to keep developing and we’ve got strategies that have been hampered by Covid.

“For 18 months, the women’s game has been shut down, our girls haven’t been able to play. Things we wanted to do in the performance area and the community area haven’t been possible, so that’s one of the things we’ve been hampered with.

“We’re determined to continue to build, yes we want to remain and become more competitive and, yes, we have strategies in place and have work to do in terms of building structures that will support that.

“It’s an exciting time ahead for women’s rugby.”

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