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Ireland captain hails 'huge step' of women's player contracts ahead of historic Japan tour

The IRFU will be providing professional contracts to women’s 15s players for the first time next season.

Nichola Fryday in training this week.
Nichola Fryday in training this week.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

IRELAND CAPTAIN NICHOLA Fryday has hailed the first professional contracts for women’s 15s players as “a huge step” ahead of their historic tour to Japan.

Greg McWilliams’ side depart on their first-ever summer tour today as they look to continue their development with a two-Test trip.

It’s been a big summer for the squad so far: the IRFU confirmed last week that it will be providing a total of 43 centralised, paid contracts to elite women’s players next season, and also appointed Gillian McDarby as Head of Women’s Performance and Pathways.

“It’s great,” Fryday said in a press conference today. “It’s been a really positive few months.

“With the announcement of the Japan tour, that was a boost for all of us after the Six Nations, knowing that we were going to get two quality Tests in the summer and get that opportunity to tour as a squad, which is so important for a team to be able to go and play some rugby and have some downtime together as well.

“The announcement of Gillian and the contracts, it’s great news. For us as players, it’s such a huge step. For me personally, as a player, if you asked me when I had first started, if I’d ever get that opportunity, I probably would have said I don’t think I will.

“It’s brilliant now that it’s gone that way for women’s rugby, and for us. We’re just focusing back on to Japan for the next two weeks, and we hope that we can get two quality matches.”

Speaking separately to The42 this morning, star second row Sam Monaghan echoed her captain’s sentiments, but an air of caution went along with her optimism.

“It’s great,” the Women’s XV Players’ Player of the Year 2022 noted. “It’s 43 contracts, and that’s across the Sevens and 15s. It is really exciting, but I think there’s also an element of worriedness around the players like who’s gonna get it, what does it mean for the UK-based players? You don’t really know yet.

“Everything’s kind of just up in the air, it is a big step, but it’s hard to know what the next couple of months are gonna look like. You’re kind of like, ‘Do I need to hang on to my job, or do I need to have the conversation with work?’ It’s going to be really hard until we find out the details around the contracts.

“Obviously, it’s amazing. All we want to focus on is the next three years, with contracts that you can live quite comfortably on. You don’t want to be… I don’t even live in Dublin at the minute, but some of the girls were telling me the rent at the minute and I was like, ‘Oh my God.’ I couldn’t believe it, like Jesus. It’s a really good, positive step and I can’t wait to see what the format of them is going to be or what it means for the players in the UK because there’s a few of us, and for the players at home as well, how many Sevens or 15 players are getting them contracts?”

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sam-monaghan-with-the-player-of-the-match-award Sam Monaghan. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

In this afternoon’s press conference, Fryday was also asked about yesterday’s IRFU announcement that transgender women over the age of 12 will not be permitted to participate in contact female rugby.

The association has argued that its decision to limit involvement to players recorded as female at birth is “based on medical and scientific evidence and in line with World Rugby guidance”.

The amendment of the IRFU’s gender participation policy for rugby applies for the forthcoming season and will impact two players currently registered.

“For me, at this time, I don’t really want to make any answers on that because I’d like to know more about the whole situation and the laws and stuff like that,” Fryday said. “So for me, I’m just going to be focusing on Japan and I think that’s something that [I] can review in a few weeks.”

Asked to confirm whether players were consulted by the IRFU about their own feelings on the matter, the Tullamore native added: “Not that I know of.

“But it’s not something, I think that we would be consulted on. I don’t know.”

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