Former Ireland captain Niamh Briggs left drained at external noise surrounding women’s rugby team

Off-field matters have dominated lead-up to several international games in the past few years

Ireland women's backs coach Niamh Briggs. Photograph: Ben Brady/Inpho

Niamh Briggs yesterday expressed her wish that a line be drawn in the sand in relation to the external noise that has been surrounding the Ireland women’s rugby team in recent times.

While off-field matters have dominated the lead-up to several international games in the past few years, an article published in The Telegraph describing an alleged comment from a senior figure in Irish rugby was a big discussion point in the days that immediately preceded their trip to Italy in the Women’s Six Nations last Saturday.

This – and much of the commentary around it – left Ireland’s assistant coach feeling significantly drained, but she is hoping there can now be more focus placed on the progress that has been made in the women’s game within the last year rather than constantly focusing on what has happened in the past.

“I’m more drained at the fact of when is enough, enough? When do we draw a line and think about what we’ve done in the last 12 months from a women’s game perspective. In terms of the last 10 days, we’ve had an Irish U18 girls team playing Six Nations, who have done so well. They were class,” Briggs said.


“We look at appointments of full-time staff in all the provinces now and we look at pathways that are put in place. We know that the jump was missed a while back, the last 10 years, but it’s not now. Can we just draw a line in the sand and get over it? Move on and think about all the brilliant things that are happening at the moment, and where the future is going.

“Dredging stuff up from the past, while we have to learn from it and I’m not saying we don’t – we have, we are learning – I just think we’ve got to keep moving forward now. I’ve come off social media and everything over the last week, it has just been so draining to see that and for people not to understand what we’re doing here in this building and where we’re going.”

Ireland's Dorothy Wall. Photograph: Luca Sighinolfi/Inpho

Over the course of a press conference held at the IRFU’s High Performance Centre, both Briggs and Irish player Dorothy Wall also moved to dismiss a suggestion made in one publication that Ireland’s game against England at Musgrave Park in Cork shouldn’t take place due to the gulf in class between the two teams.

“You talk about stuff in the media about whether this game should go ahead, it’s the most disrespectful thing I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t long ago where the Irish men were getting thumped by the All Blacks 60 odd nil. I’m not saying it’s like for like, but I’m just saying that we have to start moving now and looking forward. Looking backwards, it’s not doing anybody any good,” Briggs added.

Equally, Wall took considerable umbrage with this idea and the speculation around whether England might surpass their record Women’s Six Nations Championship win of 89-0, which was achieved against Scotland in March 2011.

“People speculate the whole time. There was also someone that said that we just shouldn’t play the game. That’s absolutely ridiculous. Why do you think we put on an Irish jersey? Why do you think we put in as much work as we do?” Wall said.

“I just think this stuff about a record score and not playing the game, it’s just very insulting to us as players, who go out every day and put everything into this Irish jersey to play Six Nations. All this talk of that sort of stuff does nothing for us. What’s the point in speculating upon that? We largely ignore that stuff.”