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IRFU to publish reports in major u-turn after letter from women's players

The union says players’ views “will be listened to and fed into future planning.”

Recently retired Ireland captain Ciara Griffin was among those to sign the letter.
Recently retired Ireland captain Ciara Griffin was among those to sign the letter.

Updated Dec 17th 2021, 3:00 PM

THE IRFU HAS confirmed that it will fully publish the two independent reports being carried out in women’s rugby.

It is a major u-turn from the IRFU in the wake of a strongly-worded letter from 62 current and past Irish women’s rugby players asking the Irish government to intervene with the IRFU in order to ensure greater transparency from the union.

The union now says it will “work tirelessly to mend and build the relationship” between itself and the players.

The IRFU has also confirmed that it hopes to meet with the Minister of State for Sport, Jack Chambers, next week.

The news represents a major success for the group of women’s players, whose hard-hitting letter called out the IRFU’s “inequitable and untrustworthy leadership” of women’s rugby and asked for transparency.

IRFU CEO Philip Browne had recently announced that neither review would be made public, but rather that the union would continue its longstanding policy of releasing only “key findings” in media briefings.

But in a complete u-turn following the players’ letter, the IRFU has now announced that both independent reviews will be made public.

One review is being carried out into Ireland Women’s recent failure to qualify for next year’s World Cup, which was a huge blow to the women’s game.

The second review is a wider, structural review of the entire women’s game in Ireland, with a focus on how the IRFU’s 2018 ‘Women in Rugby Action Plan’ has unfolded.

Both reviews are being undertaken by independent consultant Amanda Bennett – a former Wales international – and her firm FairPlay. 

The letter from current and past players this week had initially drawn a confrontational response from the IRFU.

The union published a statement saying it “refuted the overall tenor” of the letter and dismissed it as “outside interference” while the reviews were ongoing.

cliodhna-moloney-celebrates-after-the-game-with-linda-djougang Current Ireland players Cliodhna Moloney and Linda Djougang. Source: ©INPHO

However, the Department of Sport soon confirmed that it had sought a meeting with the IRFU after receiving the letter from the women’s players, with Ministers Jack Chambers and Catherine Martin stressing that they were treating the letter with “the utmost seriousness.”

That has all now led to the IRFU confirming that both reviews will be made public.

The World Cup qualification failure review is expected in January, with the wider review set for completion in “the first quarter of 2022.”

The IRFU has also moved to “assure all those devoted to rugby, including the players who issued the recent letter to Government Ministers, that the situation that developed, particularly in the last week, is regrettable and we will work tirelessly to mend and build the relationship between the Union and our players.”

The IRFU says it will seek a meeting with a delegation from the players early next year and “assures them that their views will be listened to and fed into future planning.”

This statement marks a major win for the players, who include Ireland legends like Fiona Coghlan, Lynne Cantwell, Claire Molloy and Alison Miller, recently retired Ireland captain Ciara Griffin, and current internationals such as Cliodhna Moloney, Sene Naoupu, Linda Djougang, and Eimear Considine.

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The IRFU’s statement today in full reads as follows:

“The IRFU confirms that it intends to fully publish the two independent reviews currently being undertaken into women’s rugby. The review of the Rugby World Cup 2021 qualification campaign and the wider review of the Women in Rugby Action Plan are both being undertaken by Amanda Bennett and her colleagues at FairPlay (Ltd).

“The decision was made at the December meeting of the Union Committee where the IRFU committed to transparency in this review process.

“The IRFU expects that the initial review, into the RWC’21 qualification campaign, will be completed by Amanda Bennett, and her colleagues, in January, while the wider review is expected to be available in the first quarter of 2022 (subject to completion).

“The IRFU wishes to assure all those devoted to rugby, including the players who issued the recent letter to Government Ministers, that the situation that developed, particularly in the last week, is regrettable and we will work tirelessly to mend and build the relationship between the Union and our players.

“We are committed to the development of the women’s game, from grassroots to elite level, to provide the opportunity for girls and women to enjoy lifelong participation in rugby.

“The IRFU will seek to meet a delegation from the women’s group early in the New Year and assures them that their views will be listened to and fed into future planning.

“The IRFU hope to meet with Minister Chambers next week.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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