The Rugby Academy Ireland (RAI), a private Kildare-based academy for aspiring professionals, has announced that it’s launching the country’s first under-20 women’s rugby team.
The launch is part of a series of measures being introduced by the academy to promote women’s rugby in Ireland and curb drop-out rates for female players usually forced to jump from under-18 to senior level.
“Women’s rugby in Ireland is at an all-time popularity high, and participation numbers are growing year on year,” the RAI said.
“Despite this, we see hundreds of girls drop out of rugby between the ages of 18 and 20. The jump in skills, physicality, and speed of the game from U18 to senior is massive.
“We know that female rugby players drop out of the sport in their first season of senior rugby because they have lost confidence in their ability. We want to intervene.”
Fiona Hayes has been announced as the team’s head coach, with Alison Miller joining as backs coach and Jenny Murphy as skills coach.
Along with the new team, the academy is also launching a three-year research program with Dublin City University and the Irish Research Council to investigate the influence of the menstrual cycle and hormonal contraceptive use on Irish female athletes.
The academy, which costs between €14,850 and €16,900 to attend annually, hopes that the new initiatives will improve professionalism and the opportunities for women’s rugby both in Ireland and internationally.
The RAI will formally announce the initiatives on October 1st.