New IRFU chief Kevin Potts has been quick to restore trust in the union

It’s clear that one of his priorities was to build bridges with women’s rugby

After six years of a precipitous decline for the Irish women's team, things came to a not so pretty pass when Anthony Eddy's comments absolving himself or the IRFU of any blame for the failure to qualify for the World Cup prompted that remarkable plea for help from the Government by 62 former or current players.

The knee-jerk release by the IRFU expressing their “disappointment”, which amounted to a fairly spectacular own goal, even invoked a rebuke from Minister of State for Sport Jack Chambers. That marked a nadir in the relationship between the IRFU and the women’s game it purported to govern. That was only last November.

Fast forward barely 3½ months and the union have not only accepted all 30 recommendations in the independent review into that painful World Cup qualifying campaign, but have vowed to implement them and have already begun to do so.

More than that, IRFU chief executive Kevin Potts has engaged in extensive dialogue with representatives of the women's game and has gone so far as to formally apologise to them. Historically, the union doesn't normally do sorry.

Then, no doubt with deliberate timing, within two minutes of the IRFU issuing its embargoed press release and the review's recommendations yesterday, the players' representative group – Ciara Griffin, Claire Molloy, Cliodhna Moloney and Lindsay Peat – welcomed the IRFU's acceptance of the recommendations and their publication.

Proactive approach

Not only did they express their belief that implementing the recommendations could make a significant and positive difference for women’s rugby in Ireland, but they highlighted Potts’s proactive and inclusive approach to their discussions, his commitment to resolving the issues facing the women’s game, and even thanked him for his “leadership”.

Recall, after all, that only last November the players had expressed their “loss of all trust and confidence” in the IRFU’s management of women’s rugby.

It’s clear that one of Potts’s priorities on becoming the union’s CEO in January was to rebuild bridges with women’s rugby and strive to set it on upward graph, while providing the internal IRFU leadership to make that happen. If nothing else, he has swiftly restored trust in the union. Admittedly, the only way was up and his timing helped. He brought with him a new voice and a clean slate.

Ditto the appointment of a new head coach, Greg McWilliams, for the women's team in place of Adam Griggs, while Eddy's position as the director of women's and sevens rugby had simply become untenable. Suffice to say that there will have been little gnashing of teeth among the players over his departure.

Similarly, Eddy’s departure the day before the publication of the report’s recommendations was “not linked at all”, according to Potts. Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he? But Potts was not looking to the past, more toward the future.

While there will be some disappointment that the independent review was not published, one ventures that even a redacted version would have had more black lines than a CIA report. Of course, the proof of the IRFU’s shift and its effects will be in the results, but this is a positive start.