Ireland women’s rugby head coach Greg McWilliams has questioned the timing of an article in the Daily Telegraph detailing an alleged sexist attitude that exists within the IRFU.
Writing on Thursday in the national UK newspaper, Fiona Tomas reported on a number of revelations that paint an unflattering picture of the union when it comes to how they operate the female code. The article describes how a supposed prominent figure in Irish rugby made a derogatory remark about women’s rugby while IRFU president John Robinson was delivering a speech at a dinner held in Dublin’s Bective Rangers last month.
It also suggested that players were refused protein supplements in the lead-up to last year’s summer tour of Japan, weren’t properly consulted about the IRFU’s decision to change the colour of the team shorts from white to navy because of period concerns and that the option of ‘hybrid contracts’ wasn’t considered when the union were negotiating full-time deals for female players in the latter half of 2022.
Given it was published just two days before his team take on Italy in a Six Nations Championship encounter at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi in Parma, McWilliams – who dismissed the notion that the IRFU is a sexist organisation – is doing his best to ensure it doesn’t become a distraction.
“I’d question the timing of the article. I’d question the fact that it’s coming out now, two days before we play a game when it could have come out in December or it could have come out last summer. I’m not quite sure why it was done the way it was done. Our plan is as is and we’re staying very focused on it,” McWilliams said.
Another aspect of the article that stands out is the “horror stories” around team selection that apparently saw players being left off team emails or – in some cases – not even being told they had been dropped for a match. Yet McWilliams insisted through his dealings with the media yesterday that some of the Telegraph’s piece was historical and his own approach to selection is extremely transparent.
“We had a squad of 26 that were selected to go to Italy. We’ve a wider squad of 32. All six players that weren’t in the 26 squad that we put up in the team room were talked to before the selection went out. We came to Italy and we had the selection this morning. Every player that moved from being on the pitch to being on the bench, or on the bench to off, have all been talked to.
“We give them reasons why they weren’t selected for this game. We give them their work-ons. We let them know exactly, through the process and not through the emotion. You have to separate them both. What do they need to do to be a better player, because we’re in a performance environment.”
As for Saturday’s game itself, McWilliams has opted to make three changes to his starting line-up from the heavy defeat to France at Musgrave Park in Cork last Saturday week. Lauren Delany, Anna McGann and Ailsa Hughes have all been drafted into the side and McWilliams is hopeful that his charges can improve on their performances in the opening two rounds of the championship.
“We do believe that with the plan we have going in and the selection we’ve made, that we’re ready to give it a good go and we’re confident going into the weekend. We’re looking forward to seeing how they react to improvements not only over this week, but we saw from Wales to France,” McWilliams added.
IRELAND: Lauren Delany (Sale Sharks/IQ Rugby); Aoife Doyle (Railway Union RFC/Munster), Aoife Dalton (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Anna McGann (Railway Union/Connacht), Natasja Behan (Blackrock College/Leinster); Dannah O’Brien (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Ailsa Hughes (Railway Union/Leinster); Linda Djougang (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Neve Jones (Gloucester-Hartpury/Ulster), Christy Haney (Blackrock College/Leinster); Nichola Fryday (Exeter Chiefs/Connacht) (capt), Sam Monaghan (Gloucester-Hartpury/IQ Rugby); Dorothy Wall (Blackrock College/Munster), Grace Moore (Saracens/IQ Rugby), Deirbhile Nic a Bháird (Old Belvedere/Munster).
Replacements: Clara Nielson (Exeter Chiefs/IQ Rugby), Sadhbh McGrath (City of Derry/Cooke RFC/Ulster), Kathryn Buggy (Gloucester-Hartpury/IQ Rugby), Hannah O’Connor (Blackrock College/Leinster), Brittany Hogan (Old Belvedere/Ulster), Molly Scuffil-McCabe (Railway Union/Leinster), Vicky Irwin (Sale Sharks/Ulster), Méabh Deely (Blackrock College/Connacht).