IRFU to offer professional contracts to Ireland women’s 15s players for the first time

Over 40 contracts expected to be announced before two Test tour to Japan next month

The IRFU is set to confirm 40-plus professional contracts for members of the Ireland women’s 15s and Sevens national squads. Only Sevens players have been previously contracted.

The official announcement will take place before Ireland’s two Test tour to Japan next month (August 20th and 27th) and is likely to be within the next fortnight. The appointment of a new role, the head of women’s performance and pathways, is also imminent.

It represents the first time that the Union will offer professional contracts to some of the Ireland women’s 15s squad – the senior players in the Irish women’s Sevens squad are on contracts of €18,000 – and follows on from similar undertakings given by the Welsh and Scottish rugby unions and the Italian Rugby Federation earlier this year.

In remuneration terms there are likely to be several bands, with a figure of €30,000 at the upper end of the payment scale. The terms and conditions of contracts will have to be flexible to facilitate the diverse nature in terms of squad composition.


Some of the players are in full-time education, others have professional careers outside of sport, while yet another tranche play their club rugby in England, or in the case of Linda Djougang for Romagnat in France.

The Irish players are aware that professional contracts are in the offing but are not yet privy to the detailed content or who will get them. That will change in the next two weeks or so. It follows on from the IRFU’s formal acceptance of all 30 recommendations of an independent review following the failure to qualify for Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2021.

Following the release of the recommendations of the report – from Amanda Bennett, of FairPlay Ltd – the Union announced an additional €1 million investment in the women’s game, growing the annual budget to about €4 million, and the creation of a new role of head of women’s performance and pathways, the identity of whom should be revealed next week.

Ireland are the last of the Women’s Six Nations countries to offer professional contracts. The England Women’s 15s squad is fully professional – average contract reportedly worth £30,000 (€35,667) – while France offers a mixture of professional and semi-professional contracts. Wales contracted 12 players on a full-time basis last January.

The Italian Rugby Federation (FIR) announced in April that they will centrally contract 25 players with the aim of supporting the professional activity of Italy’s best female players on a semi-professional basis, rewarding them financially for a commitment to periods of 80-130 days with the national team per year. The central contracts replaced the scholarship project developed for the national team from December 2020.

The Scottish Rugby Union (SRU) confirmed last month that they would offer in excess of 30 professional contracts to the 15s national squad players in a four-year strategy and that in the first year would invest an additional £2.5 million (€2.97 million) at both elite and grassroots level to increase numbers and visibility.

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer