Hard graft and sheer guts has Cantwell living dream
Ireland stand on the cusp of a Grand Slam dream and then it’s sevens heaven in China
Ireland’s Lynne Cantwell (second left) celebrates the win over France in Ashbourne with team-mates Niamh Kavanagh, Joy Neville and Gillian Burke. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Note to Áras an Uachtaráin: any plans to host the Grand Slam winners should be postponed for at least a fortnight.
Regardless of tomorrow’s result against Italy, it seems likely that Michael D Higgins will invite the Six Nations champions up to the Phoenix Park, as his predecessor Mary McAleese did with the men in 2009.
To do so without the presence of Lynne Cantwell would be a travesty. In fact, the President would be welcoming Ireland Lite. You see, Cantwell and seven other players on the cusp of making history in Parabiago, outside Milan, will be unavailable after Tuesday.
That’s how many of this championship winning group are linking up with John Skurr ’s Sevens squad for the IRB tournament in China. The World Cup is in Moscow next June and the IRFU finally appear to understand the current status quo, shifting the best players from 15s to sevens, is not sustainable.
“If I’m honest,” said Cantwell. “I don’t think there can be a balance. There needs to be two completely separate squads because as amateur players you cannot do the two. At the moment it is a transitional period but both opportunities are incredible.
“In this little window of opportunity we must attract as many young girls as possible to play the sport in the future.”
The union will reveal more next week about their strategy for Sevens rugby leading up to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. We’re talking females only, mind. No mention of the male version please – the official line being it costs too much.
The Sports Council funding will also be announced next Thursday when €35 million is divvied up across all sports.
“Sevens is a really young sport, but really exciting now it is going into the Olympics,” Cantwell continued. “The rate of development of all the other teams is completely vertical so while we have funding other teams are improving at a rate of knots as well. We need the right support, the right coaching behind us to make that transition quicker.”
Transfer best players
Not to rain on the parade (not that an official parade has been organised yet) but Ireland didn’t suddenly become 25 points a better team than England, Grand Slam winners six of the last seven years. The English made the decision to transfer their best players into Sevens before the Six Nations.
“But we deserved that victory,” the 31-year-old centre countered. “Fiona Steed said it to us before the French game: We’ve worked hard and we deserve to win but the younger players shouldn’t have to work as hard as we did over the last 10 years. And I know you can’t compare us to the boys because they have a professional set-up.”
Cantwell has worked harder than most. It is well know before the union got their arms around this squad, she designed conditioning programmes for her team-mates.