Crowley: We must build on success

Irish women’s rugby manager Gemma Crowley has urged everyone involved in the game to build on the success of their glorious Six Nations campaign.

With the championship and Triple Crown already in the bag, Ireland head to Milan to face Italy on Sunday in search of their first Grand Slam.

“It has been an amazing few weeks for us. Without wanting to sound too much of a cliché, it is what dreams are made of.

“If you told me at the start of the year that’d we’d be going to Italy as champions, looking for a Grand Slam I’d have bitten your hand off. It is great to already have the championship guaranteed but now we’d love to come away from Italy with the Grand Slam,” she said.

And Cork native Crowley insists they must make the most of their victories to ensure they are ready to bring the next generation of women’s rugby players through.

“If we are being realistic, this year is the best possible publicity we could ever have hoped for, for the game of women’s rugby in Ireland. You can’t put a value on what this will do for the game here.

“After our Six Nations success the players are now household names. Young girls have role models and that is vital for getting youngsters involved in the game. But it is very important that we continue to build on the success and keep focused on developing for the future.

“Our focus must now be all about getting everyone involved in playing the game, especially the young people. We have a World Cup next year and I’m sure we’ll have one or two retirements after that, so already we have to be ready to introduce the next generation of players,” said Crowley, who begins work with the Irish Sevens side in Hong Kong after the Italy game. “But our underage structures are already working well. Ashleigh Baxter and Nikki Caughey have come through that set-up and are now in the senior squads. It is the perfect example for young players that reaching the senior team is an attainable goal,” she said.

Meanwhile, RTÉ Two yesterday confirmed the game would be shown live.

“The women’s senior team has worked incredibly hard over many years to achieve this success and we hope that it will be a catalyst for the continued development of, and interest in, the women’s game,” said IRFU director of communications, Stephen McNamara.

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