Eimear Considine believes that if Irish women's rugby is to close the gap on England, the club game must improve on the island.
"I think theres's a lot needs to be done with our club system to get there," the Ireland international said at the launch of the Aviva Mini Rugby Virtual Skills Hub.
"[England's] club system is as professional as it gets. We've a few girls playing over there and they have their S&C, skills sessions. They're essentially professional teams, but a lot of girls work. That's the difference. They get that setup in clubs, they're playing week in week out which allows them to be at a high standard.
"A really good club system would automatically link in for any sport, whether it's Gaelic games or soccer or whatever sport. If the club system is right, the structures are right on the bottom then you'll get it at the top.
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"We've seen it with Munster at the minutes with academy boys coming through and the club system working again. The same needs to be put in place for the Women's AIL.
"There's not enough teams. Traditionally, UL Bohs was the only team in Munster. This year they brought in Ballincollig. There's only one AIL team in Connacht - Galwegians; there's only one AIL team in the North with Cooke; and then the rest are in Dublin.
"The AIL isn't spread around the country. If someone in West Clare wants to play AIL, top standard Division 1 rugby, it's an hour-and-a-half to get to training. If someone in Cork wants to play AIL, Ballincollig isn't close [for many]. What about Waterford? What about Tipp? There isn't enough AIL clubs around the country, girls playing at a high standard for our club system to be good enough."
Pictured is Irish rugby star Eimear Considine, who has teamed up with legendary Irish International Ronan O’Gara to launch the Aviva Mini Rugby Virtual Skills Hub, which will take place over next week’s mid-term break from Monday 15th to Friday 19th February 2021. Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan
It was announced last week that the Women's Six Nations, in a condensed format, will take place in April. Considine believes that finishing second and being competitive with England is a realistic aim.
"I suppose last year, our aim was to win our home games. And we did that," she said.
"We obviously had France and England away. But last year, Italy beat France so it proves that France are beatable. They're not on the pedestal that some people put them on. Yes, they're semi-pro, yes they're a good team. But Scotland showed at the weekend with a good defensive system and a bit of heart, you can beat any team.
"England are probably that bit far away from everybody. And I think the fact that their Premiership is ongoing so they have that advantage. They've played more games in the last year in England than I've played in the last three years. Because of their club system and getting the practice of playing games, week in, week out, even through Covid.
"They're going out to New Zealand to win that World Cup, we haven't qualified so there's reality as well there.
"But we're capable of beating any other team. Italy and Scotland have proven over the last year - and we had a crack in France last November in a training camp - when you go 15 on 15 you know they're not that far away from us. I think we learned that in that training camp.
"We were doing well last season,a lot of stuff clicked. Our defensive system clicked, we've a lot of experience playing and training together and there's finally some continuity and fluidity in our squad.
"We were building there for a while and there was a long period of building and transition but I think we've finally got there, we have built and we've transitioned. I think we have a good squad and it's unfortunate we didn't get to play that French game in November.
"But we'd aim for a second place and really put it up against England. We proved in the 6N last year when they didn't score in the second half. Not a lot of teams do that."
Featured photo by Matt Impey/Sportsfile
Aviva’s Safe To Dream Team online skills hub aims to improve access for young people on their sporting journey within clubs or at home. To take part, and to be in with a chance to win prizes for your family or kit for your club, and receive discounts on your car and home insurance, families and clubs across Ireland are invited to sign up at www.aviva.ie/safetodreamteam.