IRFU Women’s Head Coach Controversy

After a successful World Cup in Ireland in August 2017, there was a hope that it would leave a lasting legacy in Ireland. However, there is little evidence of this legacy with the IRFU appearing to downgrading the role of head coach offered on a “6-month contract, on a part time basis.” This part time head coach will be used to cover the Six Nations, arguably one of the biggest tournaments in rugby aside from the World Cup.

There is now a protest in motion spreading across the sea into English clubs. The protest began in Ireland, with Irish players wearing a wristband saying “#legacy.” This is made in reference to players questioning the legacy the Women’s World Cup has left Ireland. Wasps FC Ladies showed their support for the Irish players, with Ireland international hooker Sarah Mimnagh playing for Wasps. This level of support has been welcomed on social media and across the Premier 15s. There has also been a high level of support in Ireland for the national side.

A unified stance was taken by Old Belvedere RFC and Blacklock College players with the Women’s director of Rugby, Anthony Eddy, present at Anglesea Road, however no attempt to communicate with the players was made, many of whom are internationals. Dr Claire Molloy, Ireland captain tweeted in response to the IRFU’s offer, “Six month part-time is such a disappointment to hear when our Six Nations opposition, including Italy, have full time coaches.” Anthony Eddy also holds positions within the Sevens programmes for both men and women and it is said by the IRFU that Tom Tierney, outgoing head coach, only held a full-time position as he doubled up as Eddy’s assistant in the Sevens programmes. These revelations seem to suggest that the IRFU has little to no regard for Women’s rugby, something that drastically needs to alter.

The IRFU have released a statement clarifying their stance on the role, stating that “has not downgraded the coaching role in relation to Ireland Women’s team.” The IRFU state that they are in the process of fully reviewing their Women’s set up, but this news is coming too late for those who have retired. There appears to have been a significant lack of communication between the IRFU and players, with the only communication they have had from the union is an email asking who is retiring. There appears to be an unhealthy attitude towards Women’s rugby in the IRFU, an attitude that is not going to progress the game.

The 2017 World Cup brought the best teams to Ireland and really showcased what Women’s rugby is all about. This move by the IRFU is sending out a message to younger girls that there is little interest in Women’s rugby on a national level, potentially discouraging them from even taking up the sport. If the male professional players in Ireland wear the “#legacy” wristbands in their Interpro games in Galway and Belfast, the Irish Women no longer have a protest, they have a movement.

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