The IRFU have come in for intense criticism today from several Irish internationals, who have expressed their disappointment and outrage at reports that the union rejected an approach from Rugby Australia to host the Irish women in a historic three-test series this month.
Gavin Cummiskey, in today's Irish Times, reported that Rugby Australia issued a formal invitation for Ireland to take on the "Wallaroos" in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney over the next three weeks. The Aussies, without a female equivalent of the Rugby Championship, were looking for competition before upcoming games against New Zealand. All three games were proposed to be part of double headers with the men's tests, which get under way in Brisbane this Saturday.
The IRFU turned down the invitation, telling the Irish Times that, "when the offer came we'd already decided to focus on November fixtures to build to the Six Nations. "
The president of Australian Women's Rugby Josephine Sukkar expressed her disappointment at the decision, coming despite the Australians even offering to pay the Irish team's accommodation for the tour.
Certainly we invited them because that’s the way we are looking to go forward, as the governing body, giving our women the same opportunities as our men,
I’m sure cost played a big factor. It’s a shame as we feel we are closely matched with Ireland and it would have given us great preparation for New Zealand.
The refusal, seen as another retrograde step in the promotion of women's rugby in Ireland, has not gone down well with a number of current and former players.
Frustrating, disappointing, annoyed....
when you heard this rumour a while back, hoping it was just a rumour...... 😞 https://t.co/bZcDvgjvEH
— Leah Lyons (@LEAH__LYONZ) June 7, 2018
Sick of staying quiet about missed ops for shared learning. Been working on a paper investigating a model of promo and dev in women's sport that could be sustainable for wom rugby in Ireland, but what’s the point. When a key charac of successful models is integrating with the men https://t.co/OA95OFZ2FM
— Sene Naoupu (@SeneNaoupu) June 7, 2018
Takes a lot of courage to do this. Proud teammate. https://t.co/Dj8SVCyvdH
— Jenny Murphy (@jennymurphy045) June 7, 2018
Speaking to RTE News, former Irish prop Ailis Egan also expressed her dissatisfaction.
Bitterly disappointed on hearing the news. It's a missed opportunity, a missed opportunity for development of the game in terms of the girls' skills and how they're playing the game, but also, in terms of exposure for women's rugby, the fact that it's integrated with the men's on a major stage, it would just be brilliant for the game, brilliant for growth of the sport at grass roots level
— RTÉ Rugby (@RTErugby) June 7, 2018
Plenty more have also shared their annoyance at the IRFU's decision.
People within the IRFU denied that its hosting of the world cup was a cynical ploy ahead of the bid for the men's equivalent. So much has happened since that hasn't convinced me it was anything other than that. https://t.co/SxqUWvwLpm
— Sinead O'Carroll (@SineadOCarroll) June 7, 2018
Things the #IRFU have done for the women's team in the last year:
X - downgraded their coach to part-time
X - turned down primetime TV slots
X - turned down a tour of Australia
It's time the IRFU took the women's game seriously.https://t.co/9t0M2RVJUW
— Cllr Una Power (@unapower) June 7, 2018
Appalled and frustrated over this. IRFU can implement all these #legacy campaigns, promote #giveitatry but it's all for PR at this point. These women are ELITE ATHLETES that dedicate same time into training as mens side. Give them what they deserve#equality #wrugby @ScrumQueens https://t.co/h3K13YRb2j
— Caoimhe Morris (@CoachCaoimhe) June 7, 2018
A real slap in the face for the progression of women’s rugby... it doesn’t seem the players were even consulted on the matter? The home side even offering to cover accommodation costs! https://t.co/VcMX5B05iC
— Lauren Guilfoyle (@LaurenGuilfoyle) June 7, 2018
Last year, the IRFU came in for intense criticism when it arranged no November internationals for the team, and downgraded the national coaching postition to a part-time role after Tom Tierney was relieved of his duties. This all happened just weeks after hosting the World Cup was meant to represent a watershed for the sport in Ireland.
This year, there will be at least one November games, with Ireland taking on the USA in Donnybrook.