Fiona Hayes fumes over ‘belittling of the women’s game’

Criticism of the Irish Rugby Football Union continues to mount following a decision to downgrade the position of head coach for the national women’s team as advertised on a part time/casual basis and for just six months.

Current Irish internationals and several former players have been seething that the national body appears to be lending weight to promoting national sevens rugby to the detriment of the 15-a-side game. Fiona Hayes has represented Ireland 15 times, was a member of the 2014 World Cup squad and helped Ireland win two Six Nations. As UL Bohemian captain, she understands the upset caused to the international squad, many of whom play for the Limerick club.

“This is belittling the women’s game and I feel this is certainly going backwards rather than forwards. Basically, the recent World Cup wasn’t as successful as they thought it would be and it seems as if the IRFU has turned around and decided to concentrate on the sevens game,” she said yesterday.

“What the IRFU has done is to send out a very strong message that there is no interest in developing 15’s rugby in Ireland, it’s astonishing the commitment required of players (amateurs) when they’re involved with provincial and international rugby, it’s a seven day week workload effectively, and to have the governing body show disrespect like that is very disappointing to say the least.

“From talking to girls currently involved, they are very disillusioned. The IRFU is clearly not as committed as the girls have to be and it’s sad. The girls right now don’t know what’s going on and even the wording of the job description for a new coach is quite worrying.

“Casual/part-time? There’s nothing casual about what we do, it’s 100% commitment for the players and the players would expect 100% commitment from the IRFU but that certainly doesn’t appear to be the case now.

“In a sense, we have seen this coming because we could see in camp what was happening with the sevens players; people were coming in from sevens that never had to play a 15’s game for a club and they were able to walk in and be on an Irish team.

“That was discussed amongst the players. In fairness, we had no problems with the girls (coming in) because they were training away with you as normal, but it was just the whole concept that was disappointing.

“The IRFU has come out and said the standard of club rugby in Ireland wasn’t good enough, but instead of doing something to develop the game they did nothing. There’s the example of girls being told to move to Dublin from other clubs around the country but what does that do to the clubs from where they moved?

“If it is the case that the AIL isn’t good enough and if that may be seen to have been one of the reasons why Ireland didn’t do so well in the World Cup then surely one of the solutions would be to support the AIL clubs throughout the country and make it better and more competitive.”

UL Bohs head coach Sean Fitzpatrick agreed with his captain. “I haven’t spoken to the girls about this yet because we have a big league game against Railway Union at the weekend and that was the sole focus at training earlier this week, but I imagine they are none too happy about it, and rightly so. I’m new to this but I see it as a retrograde step, a kick in the teeth to the current players and very worrying for the future. It’s not good enough and I believe this could seriously damage the potential for Ireland doing well going forward.”


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