The Offload: CJ Stander does the State some service

Labour and Women’s Rugby Alliance; word of mouth; by the numbers and more

Ireland’s Jacob Stockdale, Hugo Keenan, CJ Stander, Andrew Porter and Keith Earls celebrate with the Millennium Trophy after beating England in the Six Nations. Photo: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Ireland’s Jacob Stockdale, Hugo Keenan, CJ Stander, Andrew Porter and Keith Earls celebrate with the Millennium Trophy after beating England in the Six Nations. Photo: Billy Stickland/Inpho

 

It was the other CJ who quoted Othello on retirement: “I have done the State some service; they know’t. No more of that.” CJ Stander will not be echoing the Moorish general but his service to this dual rugby state - explain that to South Africans on the farm - will resonate down the generations as much because he is the last as he was the first successful project player.

Initially, the recruitment of foreigners was sound business by the IRFU, dictated by a market where the big rugby nations cherry pick Pacific Island and African talent.

The project opened some people’s eyes to a xenophobia lurking just beneath the surface of Irish society. Ex-internationals calling foul of Stander and Bundee Aki stealing caps from homegrown talent failed to consider how ugly their words sounded in a global context.

However, of late, a swing in the pendulum is evident with players signed on residency grounds seemingly guaranteed to play international rugby in order to justify the investment. It used to be an unwritten rule that in a 50-50 call the local lad would get the nod. Jean Kleyn going to the World Cup ahead of Devin Toner felt like the start of tight calls leaning the other way.

The project player proved a useful tool to keep Ireland physically on par with enormous Tongans in English white and Fijians in French blue. Those days are ending with the focus switched to provincial systems that dig down for athletes born or raised within the multicultural society we hope Ireland is slowly becoming. Players with a particular set of skills, like CJ and Bundee, will always be welcome, just not looked for anymore.

New Alliance: Labour and Women’s Rugby

Aodhán wants to see this. He hoped we would chomp down on the bait. His tweet is a subtle version of the Shane Ross bandwagon antics all too frequently visited upon women in Irish sport. The Labour TD wants his party mentioned. He wants to be framed as an agitator for female representation when rugby enters the prime time slot.

“What does this image tell every girl in the country?” wailed Mr Ó Ríordáin in barely believable and poorly researched outrage at Virgin Media Sport’s audacity to paint their canvass with five men for the Six Nations finale against England.

“There isn’t an Irishwoman alive who knows anything about rugby?” added the wily politician.

Cue an avalanche of women working in journalism at pains to point out that Virgin Media’s rugby correspondent is female. Anyway, Aodhán, we see you. Henceforth, we promise to track your rise through the political ranks to understand how invested you really are in promoting equality across Irish sport.

By the way, there is another Six Nations on the horizon. And, in 2023, the WXV tournament ignites the professional engines. The Irish women’s squad will need your support to force the IRFU and Irish government to even-up investment between genders and give them a fighting chance of competing with fully professional opposition like England and New Zealand.

We know they can count of you. We even suspect this is the beginning of an alliance that might one day see you championing women’s rugby from the Department of An Taoiseach. Anticipating such an idyllic future, we are thankful for the genuine efforts being made by the shadow spokesperson on education, enterprise and trade.

By the numbers

€6.4 million: That’s the investment by World Rugby in the WXV for 2023 and 2024.

Word of mouth

“No one believed me did they?” - Johnny Sexton has been banging on for weeks about a big Irish performance.

“Myself and Leo talked long and hard about this. We were happy to offer Leo a two year contract and for his own personal reasons he wanted to do a rolling one year contract. Hopefully at this time next year we will be announcing that Leo is doing another year.” - Leinster CEO Mick Dawson

“He’s the most genuine, honest bloke that I’ve ever worked with.” - Andy Farrell on BFF CJ Stander

“To grow the game at elite level we need to ensure our member unions have quality, competitive and consistent playing opportunities so they can continue to develop and invest in their women’s high-performance programmes.” - Bill Beaumont

“The almost complete closure of licensed premises here in Ireland has fundamentally changed the commercial model for subscription-based sports broadcasters. As we navigate these challenges, eir has made the decision not to partake in the latest rounds of sports rights auctions.” - Eir Sport bids adieu to rugby

“I don’t think there is any such thing as confidence, you either think rightly or you think wrongly, and the wrong time you start to listen to the poison that’s written in the media, that rat poison gets into players’ heads.” - Eddie Jones last Thursday

“Eh, it was a difficult game for us but we still know where we are going.” - Eddie Jones when asked to explain the England performance on Saturday.

IRFU not ready for WXV in 2023

Now that a WXV three-tier global tournament has been set in stone - for 2023 - women’s rugby in Ireland has to turn semi-professional and eventually evolve into a fully professional entity.

This provides the IRFU with a choice: adopt a proactive strategy or stick to their traditionally reactive ways.

The former will cost more money. Funding is needed to give players a serious club league and interprovincial series. Clever investment will eventually yield revenue from sponsors, gate receipts and a juicy broadcast deal.

Enough of the embarrassing statements about how hard the national squad are training in Abbotstown; learn from the GAA blueprint and get women playing amateur rugby again.

“It is important that World Rugby has identified that women’s rugby is at different stages of development across the globe,” said Anthony Eddy, the IRFU’s director of women’s and Sevens, “as it will take time for unions to develop player pathways to support this model.”

Eddy has been in the job for six years. In fact, he arrived just after Ireland finished fourth at the 2014 World Cup before engineering an eighth place finish in 2017, at the disastrous home tournament. The consequences of this collapse mean Ireland must still qualify for NZ 2022.

The alternative approach is a repeat the men’s shambolic transfer from an amateur to professional game in the 1990s when the top players moved to English clubs.

Time has come for the growing number of females on provincial and national committees to create a sustainable strategic plan. The players rely on Mary Quinn and Su Carty to be their voice. And it must happen now or the Beibhinn Parsons generation will not reach their full potential.

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