A group of current and ex women's international rugby players sent a letter earlier today to the government asking for their help and intervention in their ongoing dispute with the IRFU.
62 figures signed the letter that expresses their unhappiness and discontent with the state of women’s rugby in Ireland.
It is the latest development in a long series of controversies that include the Energia Park inter-provincial dressing room debacle, and Irish hooker Cliodhna Moloney's criticism of Ireland’s Director of Rugby Anthony Eddy.
Letter To Government Criticising IRFU
The letter (which can be read in full here) is addressed to Minister of State for Sport Jack Chambers and Minister for Sport Catherine Martin, and it states that “the aim of this letter is to seek your support now to enable meaningful change for all levels of the women’s game in Ireland from grassroots to green shirts.”
It asks for “transparency” from the IRFU in regards to their reviews of the World Cup Qualification failure and the their review into the implementation of the ‘Women in Rugby Action Plan’.
“Notwithstanding the challenges of the pandemic, these facts represent significant failure. This is not just a recent issue. At the end of every World Cup cycle in the Irish women’s game, there has been a review. None of these reviews have ever been made public, with the IRFU cherry picking a handful of findings to present to the public.”
The controversies surrounding Irish women’s rugby have coincided and been made worse by the team’s lack of success since winning the 2014 Grand Slam. These failures are also brought up in the letter:
We write in the wake of a series of recent disappointments for the international team, on and off the field, but ultimately recent events simply reflect multiple cycles of substandard commitment from the union, inequitable and untrustworthy leadership, a lack of transparency in the governance and operation of the women’s game both domestically and at international level, and an overall total lack of ambition about what it could achieve.
In 2014, the Irish XV team finished the season ranked fourth in the world, having won a Six Nations Grand Slam the year before. This triggered the beginning of a new World Cup cycle and new leadership within Irish rugby with David Nucifora and Anthony Eddy overseeing the women’s programme.
The end of this cycle ended in bitter disappointment as the team finished eighth in their home World Cup in 2017, crashing out in the pool stages.
Signing this can't have been easy but it is for the greater good.
If this many current and former players signed it, it simply proves something is rotten in the state of Denmark.https://t.co/jktpRQ2FJH
— The Loose Head (@TheLooseH) December 13, 2021
The letter also provides three clear requests directed at the government.
- "We ask that you meet with the IRFU to confirm appropriate guarantees of
meaningful change so the women’s game can move forward positively."
- "We ask that you request oversight of the ongoing reviews; help guarantee the findings are transparent and help ensure that they maintain their independence.
- "We ask for your support in gaining assurances that both the findings and the recommendations of these reviews will be made fully available to the players and that relevant details and full recommendations are published publicly and following that, that leadership with the necessary authority and appropriate governance is put in place alongside a serious action plan and new targets to help move the game forward.”
With the current success of the Irish men’s team and the provinces, and the resources and support that are given to it, it highlights even further the lack of support for the women’s game.
Support online has been positive towards the actions of these women, and Irish rugby as a whole will be in a significantly better place if this support can make a difference and improve the women’s game.
IRFU Issue Strong Response
The IRFU have now responded to the letter, hitting back strongly and have expressing their disappointment while refuting the claims and made in the original letter:
It is disappointing that this group should chose now to come out with a series of allegations, given all involved in Irish Rugby are fully aware that two well resourced, independent reviews are in train and it is from these reviews that lessons, based on fact, can be learned and the foundations built which will serve the women’s game well for future generations.
The IRFU is fully committed to the development of the women’s game based on a sustainable structure, from grassroots up to international level...
For the benefit of those who may not be aware and to balance, in some way, the opinions promoted in this recent letter it is important to reiterate that the IRFU has already publicly announced and set in train an independent review into, what was for all in Irish Rugby, players, team management, IRFU committee and executives, the hugely disappointing failure of our women’s senior international team to qualify for the Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2023.
You can read the response in full here.
It is another notch in a series of disappointing back and forths between the IRFU and the women's players. With both sides seemingly unwilling to budge from their respective positions, it does not bode well for the short-term and possibly even the long-term future of women's rugby in Ireland.
A response from players who signed the letter will no doubt be on its way, either through a statement or twitter.