Advertisement

IRFU to hire head of women's rugby and invest extra €1 million, but no full report

The independent report on Ireland Women’s failure to qualify for the World Cup will not be published in full.

Ireland's players have welcomed the IRFU's measures.
Ireland's players have welcomed the IRFU's measures.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

THE IRFU SAYS it will invest an additional €1 million into women’s rugby annually and appoint a dedicated ‘Head of Women’s Performance & Pathways’ to oversee the game following the recommendations made in an independent report into Ireland Women’s failure to qualify for this year’s World Cup.

The report will not be published in full despite earlier assurances from the IRFU that they would do so. The union cited “external legal counsel” and confidentiality as the reasons.

The IRFU has also hired a full-time ‘Team Programme Manager’ for the Ireland Women 15s side to help enact the recommendations, with Gemma Crowley appointed recently having previously worked in a similar role with Ireland during a successful period from 2011 to 2014.

The review into Ireland Women’s failure to qualify for the World Cup has seen consultant Amanda Bennett and her team make 30 specific recommendations to the IRFU to improve women’s rugby. The IRFU says it has formally accepted all recommendations.

Ireland players, coaches, backroom staff, and other women’s rugby stakeholders were surveyed and interviewed as part of the review. Bennett revealed today that there was a response rate of 53% from players who were contacted as part of the survey, with just a 31% response rate among staff.

Detail on the report comes the day after the IRFU confirmed that Anthony Eddy, the union’s former director of 7s and women’s, had left his role.

IRFU CEO Kevin Potts said Eddy’s exit and the details of the report today are “not linked at all.”

Potts also apologised to women’s players who have felt let down or not respected by the IRFU.

Bennett’s recommendations are focused on areas like player development, squad culture, selection, psychology, analysis, nutrition, the appointment of a full-time assistant coach, and also for the IRFU to consider the introduction of “hybrid or retainer” contracts for female 15s players.

The 30 recommendations are as follows, with the IRFU’s status update on each of them also included in this chart:

1

2

3

4

5

6

The IRFU says it has accepted all of the recommendations but the union confirmed that it will not publish the report in full despite committing to doing so back in December following public pressure at that time, including from a group of 62 current and former players who wrote to the Irish Government asking for oversight on the review.

“The confidential nature of participants’ contributions and commitments made by the panel to those who participated; players, coaches, volunteers, and staff, must be respected and I intend to do so,” said IRFU CEO Kevin Potts.

“This decision is understood by the players’ representative group, Sport Ireland, and by the Ministers.”

Potts apologised to Irish women’s rugby players “who have felt let down or not respected.

“To them, I say: we will do better, we will do what is right for women in our game because it is the right thing to do.”

The investment of an additional “circa €1 million” into women’s rugby each year will bring the IRFU’s annual budget in the game to “circa €4 million.”

A statement from four representatives of the players’ group – former captain Ciara Griffin, Claire Molloy, Lindsay Peat, and Cliodhna Moloney – said they welcomed the publishing of the recommendations.

The players also thanked Potts for taking “considerable time to understand the issues and demonstrate his commitment to resolving them” as they complimented his leadership. The players said that they can now “look to the future with greater confidence than ever before.”

Both the IRFU’s attitude and the reaction from the players represent a huge shift, with the players having previously expressed their “loss of all trust and confidence” in the IRFU’s management of women’s rugby and said they were deeply discouraged by the union’s “inequitable and untrustworthy leadership.”

Potts said that many of the recommendations are already being put in place, although as the chart above shows, there is still lots of work ahead for the IRFU.

The union said it has also started a second review into the women’s game in Ireland, with a focus on “the strategic direction of our women’s game” and said that will be completed in the coming months.

This work is a matter of the highest priority for the IRFU committee and the executive team,” said Potts.

__________ 

ciara-griffin-celebrates-with-the-team-after-making-her-final-appearance-for-ireland Former Ireland captain Ciara Griffin, who has retired. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

 Players representatives statement in response to the IRFU:

We welcome the publication of a comprehensive set of recommendations today following the Rugby World Cup Qualifier Independent Review. This is in line with the request made by the players during the review process and we are pleased that the recommendations have been accepted in full by the IRFU.  

While they clearly highlight the many challenges surrounding the national 15s programme in Ireland, we believe that these recommendations and their implementation have the potential to make a significant and positive difference for women’s rugby in Ireland.  

As a group, we have been meeting regularly in recent months with the IRFU and Sport Ireland.   

Kevin Potts, Chief Executive of the IRFU, has taken a proactive and inclusive approach to these discussions and has taken considerable time to understand the issues and demonstrate his commitment to resolving them. This has been extremely welcome, and we want to thank him for his leadership.    

Today’s announcement by the IRFU is a welcome first step on a journey towards a new era for Irish women’s rugby, but it is a vitally important one. 

We are committed to further collaboration including ahead of the publication of another crucial review later this year which is looking at the overall game across the country.  

Together, the changes that emerge as a result of all of this work, alongside renewed commitment in women’s rugby right from the top of the IRFU, means we can look to the future with greater confidence than ever before.  

What are they
really like?

Rare insights on sport's biggest names from the writers who know them best. Listen to Behind the Lines podcast.

Become a Member

Ciara Griffin
Claire Molloy
Cliodhna Moloney
Lindsay Peat  

__________

kevin-potts-has-been-appointed-as-incoming-chief-executive-of-the-irish-rugby-football-union IRFU CEO Kevin Potts. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Full statement from IRFU CEO Kevin Potts:

“Rugby is a values-based sport and the IRFU is a values-based organisation. Our vision for Irish Rugby, as set out in our Strategic Plan 2018 – 2023, is based on ‘Building success together’.   We have fallen short of this aspiration in our women’s game. However, we are committed to putting this right and we regard the recommendations of this independent review as a solid basis from which to reignite the long-term development of women’s rugby in Ireland. 

“The announcement of these recommendations is just one milestone on a journey that has already commenced, with the work undertaken over the past number of months now beginning to yield visible results.  As part of the entire process, we have listened directly to the player’s concerns, and we understand their desire to see changes implemented that will address the issues which contributed to the failure to qualify for the Rugby World Cup and to further develop the women’s game and lay strong foundations and pathways for success in the future. Indeed, we strongly share this desire. This independent review was commissioned to identify reasons for failure to qualify for the Rugby World Cup, areas for improvement and to inform meaningful action. We accept the recommendations in full; we are already acting upon them, many are already in place, and we believe that the implementation of the recommendations will form the basis of genuine long-term progress at the top end of our women’s game.

“In December the IRFU made a commitment, in good faith, to publish this independent review in full. However, while the recommendations in Amanda Bennett’s thorough review are being published today, we are not in a position to publish the review in full.

“I appreciate that this may require further explanation. The confidential nature of participants’ contributions and commitments made by the panel to those who participated; players, coaches, volunteers, and staff, must be respected and I intend to do so. This decision is understood by the players’ representative group, Sport Ireland and by the Ministers.

“This was an independent review. Players, coaches, and staff contributed feedback openly and honestly as part of a collective effort to analyse the reasons for the failure to qualify for the World Cup and, more importantly, to identify solutions to address them. I thank them for their participation and for their ongoing commitment to the often-difficult path of continual improvement demanded in a high-performance culture. 

“The 30 recommendations published today are detailed and are testament to the robust feedback provided. They have formed the basis for a series of constructive briefings which have been held with the players, with representatives of the player group who wrote to the Minister, with Sport Ireland and with the Department of Sport.

“We have already agreed a number of actions informed by the review and are taking additional steps over and above those outlined in the report, to support the Women’s game.  Today we are announcing two major appointments: firstly, the immediate recruitment of a full time Women’s XV National Team Programme Manager and, secondly, the recruitment of a new Head of Women’s Performance and Pathways position to oversee the Women’s XVs and Sevens Performance Pathways and teams. The performance role will be advertised in the coming days. We will provide further updates in due course.

“For me, this was, first and foremost, about listening to the player group and understanding their concerns. It was also important to ensure that the players had faith in the process and in our desire to work collaboratively.  I have already had several meetings with representatives of the player group and have formally apologised to them on behalf of the IRFU. 

“While we have much to improve on, the Independent Review did highlight the exceptional effort and dedication of players and members of the performance team. It is important I acknowledge this commitment and thank them.

“I want to thank Amanda Bennett and her Independent Panel for this work and to apologise to players who have felt let down or not respected. To them, I say: we will do better, we will do what is right for women in our game, because it is the right thing to do. 

“With the assistance of Amanda Bennett, under the Chairmanship of IRFU Senior Vice-President John Robinson, we have begun the wider review into the strategic direction of our women’s game, which will be completed in the months ahead. This work is a matter of the highest priority for the IRFU committee and the executive team.

“The players asked the IRFU for changes that will have a long-term positive impact on the Women’s International Teams into the future. I believe what we have announced today provides a strong starting point, underpinned as it is by the IRFU’s commitment to c €1milion in additional resourcing to implement these recommendations.  Most importantly of all, I want to assure all aspiring women’s players that they have the full support of the IRFU to achieve their ambitions. 

“Finally, as the countdown for this season’s TikTok Women’s Six Nations Championship begins let me wish Greg McWilliams, Niamh Briggs, their management team and all the players who will attend this weekend’s opening squad session every good luck in their campaign and assure them of the full support of the IRFU.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

Read next:

COMMENTS (15)

This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel