Ireland’s 15-a-side women now under IRFU’s high performance unit
No coaches appointed or training sessions held since World Cup
Ireland’s backroom team during the 2014 Women’s Rugby World Cup. The side currently has no coaches. Photograph: Dan Sheridan
In a move that should, in theory, prove hugely beneficial for women’s rugby in Ireland, the IRFU have moved the 15-a-side game from their domestic games unit to high performance.
That means the World Cup semi-finalists now come under the remit of performance director David Nucifora and not games manager Scott Walker. This also indicates that the next head coach, and possibly his assistants, will receive a salary for their endeavour.
“Following a number of key retirements from the women’s XV coaching and the player group the IRFU began an in-depth review of the women’s game,” said a union spokesman. “Significant progress has been made to date, with the women’s XV joining the women’s sevens in the high performance unit of the IRFU, and the union will continue the process to ensure the long term success of women’s rugby.
“The IRFU has briefed players in relation to this ongoing process, while continuing the same training and performance schedule that existed under the previous management team.”
And yet, there hasn’t been a collective training session since the World Cup last August. This is because there haven’t been any coaches despite Philip Doyle announcing his plan to step down before the tournament. More than ever the group needed a period of stability and firm direction following the retirement of captain Fiona Coghlan, vice-captain Lynne Cantwell and centre Grace Davitt. There’s still no manager to replace Gemma Crowley who joined England’s 2015 World Cup organisation.
It’s also been confirmed that there will not be a game at the Aviva Stadium in 2015, despite the historic Italy fixture last season feeling like a breakthrough moment. France and England visit Ashbourne on Friday nights in February. These nations meet at Twickenham on March 21st after the corresponding men’s fixture.
Having captured the world title England announced 20 full-time professional contracts, while also continuing to invest heavily in their Sevens programme. It remains highly unlikely that Ireland will qualify for the Olympic Games in 2016 as poor results saw them fail to stay in the world series.
Another opportunity was missed in November despite Doyle’s parting advice being how important this Test match window is to ensure genuine progress.
“The IRFU need to think about that really seriously,” said Doyle last August. “It is the only way we are going to get experience into the squad. We can’t keep going on with just five games in the Six Nations. ”
World Cup achievements
Nucifora was unavailable for comment. The high performance director is currently dealing with remaining men’s contracts – which include Mike Ross – and is currently in Dubai to watch John Skurr’s Sevens squad compete in an invitational tournament today. Captained by Jenny Murphy, and including Ireland wingers Ashleigh Baxter and Ali Miller, they face Moscow Region, Georgia, Wales and Kenya Lioness’s.
Skurr’s group are now into their second season of high performance supervision at Dublin City University, where they “train as professionals” thanks to €1.1 million funding from the Irish Sports Council.
There is, at least, work being done behind the scenes by Steve Aboud and current Ireland outhalf Nora Stapleton to develop identification and long term player pathways at 15 aside.
“I know they are doing it but it has got to happen a little bit quicker,” added Doyle. “We have a real chance here. We’ve had two good years, the Grand Slam and reaching a World Cup semi-final, so let’s just back it.”
The appointment of Doyle’s successor was “three weeks away” last August (Walker), “imminent” in October (Nucifora) and “progressing very positively” yesterday.