The women’s programme is the priority according to IRFU women’s rugby director Anthony Eddy as Alison Miller, Sene Naoupu and Hannah Tyrrell were called up for Sevens duty.
The surprising move see’s the three miss Sunday’s six nations clash with France in favour of next weekend’s World Seven’s series tournament in Las Vegas.
The team travel out to Vegas on Sunday, meaning the three star’s will miss the high noon kick off with France with both in the hunt for the grand slam.
“It was always the plan” explained Eddy. “We knew a long time ago there would be difficulty. Tom (Tierney) and I sat down months ago and planned what would be best around development opportunities.”
While surprising that just six months away from a World Cup and with a grand slam in the offing Tierney and Eddy are both wiling to shuffle their pack Eddy revealed the three will return for Ireland’s final two six nations games.
Ireland, however, are fighting two corners with the seven’s team aiming to retain their spot in the top flight of the World Seven’s series, which includes qualification for next year’s World Cup.
“Sene (Nauopou) and Ali (Alsion Miller) weren’t taken to Sydney,” explained Eddy as both players were left with the 15’s side who defeated Scotland with a last gasp try on match day one of the six nations.
“Hannah Tyrrell had been with the 15’s, but we wanted to continue to provide her with competitive games, these games give us another chance to look at other players.”
Ireland had used the November series games against England, Canada and New Zealand as part of the build up toward this August’s home World Cup. Eddy insisting the side are still developing toward that aim.
“Seven’s isn’t the priority the women’s programme is the priority” declared Eddy. “Ideally we want to have 28 players available for the World Cup and it is about giving them the opportunity to be exposed at the highest level of the game.” “It’s not 23 quality players that will win you a World Cup you’ve seen from the last World Cup they may get you to a semi-final” explained Eddy.
“But, the results is not what you want if you are going to be beaten convincingly in a semi-final, we want to be competitive.”
Eddy, the IRFU’s director of rugby, also insisted women’s 15’s team manager Tom Tierney was in full agreement with him around the decision to move Nauopu, Miller and Tyrell.
“Tom and I work closely every day” Eddy explained “This was part of the high performance plan and he is fully aware of it, he’s fine with it and there is no issue there.” Eddy also dismissed any suggestion the Irish women’s team had become upset around changes to the team as previously occurred ahead of the 2014 World Cup.
“They have been spoken to about it for ages, they knew Sene and Ali would be called into the sevens at some stage during the year.”
“No I haven’t” explained Eddy when asked if he was aware of any unhappiness in the squad over the decision. “If that’s the case, that’s probably disappointing, because the resources put behind the women’s 15 programme have been pretty good and we are in a high performance programme now and you would expect a high level of performance from those players.”
Ireland play the USA, Fiji and Spain in their group of the World Rugby Women’s seven series in Las Vegas Mar 3-4. Ireland are currently ninth in the standings.
Squad: Ashleigh Baxter (Ulster), Claire Keohane (Munster), Katie Fitzhenry (Leinster), Stacey Flood (Leinster), Alison Miller (Connacht), Lucy Mulhall (Leinster) (captain), Amee-Leigh Murphy-Crowe (Munster), Sene Naoupu (Aylesford Bulls), Audrey O’Flynn (Ireland Sevens Programme), Hannah Tyrrell (Leinster), Susan Vaughan (Leinster), Megan Williams (Ireland Sevens Programme).
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