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IRFU finally close to publishing controversial Ireland Women report

The report was initially set to be released in January.

Ireland lost to Spain and Scotland at the World Cup Qualifier.
Ireland lost to Spain and Scotland at the World Cup Qualifier.
Image: Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO

THE INDEPENDENT REPORT into Ireland Women’s failure to qualify for this year’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand is finally close to being released by the IRFU following a delay.

The IRFU says it is holding briefings with players and other stakeholders this week, with a media event to follow either later this week or early next week.

The IRFU had initially indicated that the report would be available in January but it’s understood that there may have been some complications around publicly revealing all of the information gathered for the report.

Ireland Women were the favourites to win the Qualifier competition last September but suffered defeats to Spain and Scotland, meaning they missed out on the World Cup for the first time since the very first tournament in 1991.

Head coach Adam Griggs subsequently left his role and the IRFU appointed Greg McWilliams in his place, with the new boss expected to name his squad for the Six Nations this week as the new era gets underway.

However, the report on Ireland’s disappointment last year has not yet been published.

Last November, the IRFU  had indicated that the full report would not be made public and that only select findings would be shared with the media. 

However, that decision was reversed following major public pressure on the IRFU, mainly through an explosive letter sent by a group of 62 current and former Irish women’s rugby players to the Irish government expressing their loss of all trust and confidence in the IRFU.

That letter from the Irish players came soon after IRFU director of women’s and 7s rugby, Anthony Eddy, had given a media briefing in which some of his words were perceived by players as laying the blame for the failure to qualify for the World Cup firmly at their feet.

anthony-eddy IRFU director of women's and 7s rugby, Anthony Eddy. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The IRFU initially responded to the players’ letter in a confrontational fashion, expressing its disappointment and saying the union “refutes the overall tenor” of the players’ message.

However, the IRFU then moved to issue a conciliatory message after the Irish Minister for Sport, Catherine Martin, and Minister of State for Sport, Jack Chambers, said they were treating the letter with “the utmost seriousness” and would meet with the IRFU and the players involved.

The independent report into Ireland’s failed Qualifier campaign has been led by ex-Wales international Amanda Bennett, who is part of the FairPlay consultancy firm.

Bennett was joined by ex-Wales back row Kevin Bowring and Helen Philips on the independent review panel.

The IRFU said the aim of the report is “to learn from any issues that led to Ireland failing to qualify and to identify areas of improvement that will support future international campaigns.”

It’s understood that the World Cup Qualifier report contains some sections that may cause discomfort for certain people when revealed to the public, which may explain the delay. However, the publishing date is now close, according to the IRFU.

“We are co-ordinating briefings with key stakeholder groups including players,” said an IRFU spokesperson.

“This is due to take place this week, and we hope to be in a position to hold a press event towards the end of the week, or early next week.”

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railway-union-lift-the-trophy-as-all-ireland-champions Railway Union won a brilliant AIL final last weekend. Source: Ben Brady/INPHO

Back in October, the IRFU also confirmed it had launched a separate, broader structural review into the entire women’s game in Ireland.

That review group is chaired by John Robinson, the senior vice-president of the IRFU, and includes IRFU committee members Fiona Steed and Su Carty.

Amanda Bennett has also been conducting all the interviews and fieldwork for that separate report, which the IRFU indicated would be “completed in early in 2022.”

In December, the IRFU confirmed that this second report would also be made available in full to the public.

After a brilliant All-Ireland League final last weekend in which Railway Union defended their title by beating Blackrock, the IRFU will be hoping that Irish women’s rugby can move on towards a more positive future.

New head coach McWilliams recently confirmed ex-Ireland fullback Niamh Briggs as his assistant coach and further appointments are set to be finalised soon.

Ireland open their Six Nations campaign against Wales in Dublin on 26 March.

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