Look past the feelgood, fuzzy factor from the news of Ireland’s success in winning the rights to host the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup, and one point stands out above all others: it increases the host team’s chances of success.
As current Six Nations, and with a fourth-placed finish at last year’s global tournament in France under their belt, Ireland’s star is very much on the rise in the women’s game and captain Niamh Briggs has no doubt when asked if they could go all the way.
“Absolutely,” she replied. “The World Cup format is a very difficult format. It is similar to the U20s in that you play every four days. For us, the last World Cup was amazing getting to a semi-final, but we didn’t have a squad strong enough to carry us through.
“The majority of the girls played every game and the English and Canadians, who got to the final, didn’t have to do that. That’s got to be our aim now, to develop as many girls to national standard as we can the next two years.”
These are changeable times for the Irish women. Many are dividing their time between the 15-a-side game and sevens — not to mention day jobs — and the female game has just been shifted from the Domestic Game department to the High Performance Unit.
Tom Tierney has come in as head coach and a strategic review that was started in the wake of their successful Six Nations campaign is still being strung together and which will answer some pertinent, important questions.
The signs are that the women will move from ‘Fortress Ashbourne’ to the 4G pitch in Donnybrook but it remains to be seen if they can finally be awarded some badly-needed game time outside of the Six Nations window.
“We have never had that before,” said Briggs. “We do want to play more games, but it has been something that wasn’t financially viable. It would be great to play more games, but getting together more often in the season ahead is going to be more important.”
The squad will get together at the end of May by which time the significance of yesterday’s announcement will have set in, even if the focus for the team itself must remain internal for the next two years. “We’ve got two years to get it right,” said Tierney. “Host nation and we will be looking at it as an opportunity to leave legacy to the women’s game. They will be very conscious of that.”
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