Ireland head coach Adam Griggs has said establishing a consistent women’s rugby culture from grassroots level upwards will be the key to closing the gap to England and France on the international stage.
Having begun their Six Nations campaign with an encouraging bonus triumph over Wales, a chastening 56-15 defeat at the hands of the French in Dublin last Saturday brought Ireland back down to earth. While bright prospects like Beibhinn Parsons and Dorothy Wall took up the sport at a young age, there are multiple examples of these kinds of players in the Championship’s top-two sides.
“If you look at some of the players, say just for France because we’ve come off the back of playing them. You have players that are immersed in that rugby culture from four or five years old,” Griggs explained.
“Until we can really grow those numbers right from the bottom up and through into the domestic league, it will take some time [to close the gap]. I do think we’ve got a core of players now that are in this group, who have started that journey into international rugby. We know that if you can get that structure right, it does produce top quality players.”
Domestic women’s rugby has been non-existent in Ireland during recent months, with the Women’s All-Ireland League not permitted to take place under current restrictions. In a post-Covid world, Griggs feels it is essential that this competition - along with the inter-provincial series - is used as the platform to grow the game at adult level.
“I don’t run those competitions or organise them. At the same time, I do believe that both those sides of it - AIL and the inter-provincial series - will help us select players that are of a competitive nature and are ready to step up into the international scene.
“Ultimately our inter-provincial series is at a level where in England you have Saracens, Harlequins and those sorts of teams. You can see that level of competition is driving their international team.”
For the time being, Griggs’ focus will be on guiding his side to victory over Italy in this weekend’s third/fourth place play-off. After naming the same starting line-up for Ireland’s two games to date in a restructured Six Nations, the New Zealander acknowledged he is now likely to alter his match day selection in the wake of their heavy reversal to France.
“I think we have to look at the performance from week to week. We’ve said we’ve got a competitive group. We’ll see how we train in the early part of this week, before we make those decisions. At the same time, we have to keep an eye on the future as well.
“If players have had a shot a couple of times, I think this would be a good time to look at other options. We haven’t made any decisions just yet, but you’re there to perform. If you don’t, we’ve got other players that are ready to step up,” Griggs added.