Sevens funding set to be confirmed
Ireland’s Fiona Coghlan celebrates after victory over France in Ashbourne gave. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Ireland captain Fiona Coghlan leads the celebrations after the win over France. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Fiona Coghlan’s Ireland team capturing the Six Nations title is expected to hasten confirmation of funding from the IRFU and Irish Sports Council for the women’s Sevens squad.
Preparations have already begun for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, when Ireland intend to be represented by a female Sevens side.
The current Ireland Sevens squad, coached by John Skurr, have been in camp along with Coghlan’s group in Ashbourne these past two months. They finally start competing at the Guangzhou tournament in China on March 30-31 as part of their preparations for the world cup in Moscow this June.
It’s accepted that funding of over ¤500,000 per year will be required from the union and government coffers if the Sevens squad are to reach any sort of competitive standards.
The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar joined president Michael D Higgins and 3,100 other souls at Ashbourne RFC on Friday night to witness Ireland’s historic 15-10 victory over France.
Confirmation of the funding is believed to be imminent.
Skurr is also joined in a full-time backroom by 15 aside manager Gemma Crowley, strength and conditioning coach Ross Callaghan and nutritionist Ruth Kilcawley. The Sevens head coaching job is due to be advertised, with Skurr the favourite to be appointed.
Meanwhile, Italy’s 0-34 defeat to England – whose Six Nations campaign was severely disrupted by the decision to send their best players to the IRB Sevens circuit – means regardless of next Sunday’s result in Parabiago, a suburb of Milan, Coghlan’s team are already champions.
It is the first time since Scotland won the title in 1998 that the English and French stranglehold has been released.
Ireland have never finished better than third, where they have landed the past four seasons, while England have won six Grand Slams in the past sevens years.
Despite Italy’s heavy defeat in Esher on Saturday, Ireland head coach Philip Doyle was preaching caution ahead of the St Patrick's Day showdown.
“No, Italy beat France so how can they be a push over," said Doyle. That 13-12 victory over France was on February 2nd in Brescia. They also beat Scotland 8-0 and lost by a point to Wales.
"It’s just another game," said fullback Niamh Briggs. "The championship is ours, but for us it’s a Grand Slam and it’s a word we’ve been throwing out there all week, but we’re treating it as another game because that’s the way it is.
The only injury concerns are centre Jenny Murphy (calf) and winger Ashleigh Baxter (knee). However, both are expected to recover.