Fiona Coghlan’s heroes deserve their day out at the Aviva Stadium
IRFU expected to meet tomorrow to see whether they can grant women’s team a Test match at headquarters
Ireland celebrate their first ever Grand Slam in Parabiago in Milan last March.
Primarily the domain of male sporting endeavour since Henry Wallace Doveton Dunlop’s 69-year lease enabled him to launch Lansdowne Football in 1872, all that may be about to change down Aviva Stadium way.
The IRFU had already slipped behind the times with the promotion of women’s rugby when Fiona Coghlan’s side captured their first ever Grand Slam on March 17th. That at least sped up confirmation of €1.1 million funding for the Sevens programme, with the aim of being competitive at the Rio Olympics in 2016.
And while Ashbourne RFC is a welcoming, homely environment, it’s some way short of the facilities expected even for an amateur international sporting event.
Women’s Test matches
The English RFU last year welcomed women’s Test matches into Twickenham, straight after the men played, and did so again last Saturday against France. The Ireland male and female outfits are playing back-to-back at the 2015 World Cup final venue on February 22nd. Both are on live television too. Incidentally, the Irish women previously played there in 2004.
But there’s another hindrance to the Six Nations champions defending their crown; while England and France are racking up valuable experience outside the Six Nations window, all Ireland coach Philip Doyle can rely on is training camps and form shown in the interprovincial series that begins shortly.
Then there is the problem of balancing dual commitments to the 15 and seven-a-side codes.
The union went on record last season as stating any cross-over between Jon Skurr’s Sevens and Doyle’s squad isn’t feasible. Both are enticing, yet arduous pathways over the coming year.
The Sevens bandwagon rolls into Dubai later this month then Atlanta, Georgia in mid-February, São Paulo a week later and Amsterdam come May.
World Cup split
But the major women’s rugby event of 2014 is the 15-a-side World Cup split between the French centre of excellence in Marcoussis and Paris next August. Awaiting Ireland in Pool B are Kazakhstan, USA and defending champions New Zealand.
The IRFU decision makers are expected to meet tomorrow to see whether they can grant Coghlan’s heroes the recognition that would out-strip any previous support; a Test match at headquarters.
Any fears by the union or FAI about their precious surface being torn up by the women could be allayed by giving them the evening slot after Joe Schmidt’s Ireland face Italy on March 8th.
It’s the last game if the Six Nations and comes three days after the soccer international against Serbia.
The only question now is, why not?