Wednesday 18 September 2019

Cantwell: IRFU needs to strike balance

Lynnce Cantwell spoke at the unveiling of ‘Liberty Fields’, Guinness’ new five-minute documentary and TV advert (stock photo)
Lynnce Cantwell spoke at the unveiling of ‘Liberty Fields’, Guinness’ new five-minute documentary and TV advert (stock photo)

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

Lynne Cantwell was one of the leaders on the team that put the Ireland women's team on the sporting map earlier this decade. Now, as a board member of Sport Ireland, she is working on removing the barriers to entry for young girls and ensuring the pathways to the top are as clear as possible for elite female athletes.

In town to promote Guinness's new ad which tells the tale of Japanese rugby team Liberty Fields who broke new ground during the 1980s, the Grand Slam winner looks at her own sport and identifies an imbalance between Sevens and XVs as a major issue.

Having made the breakthrough at the 2014 World Cup, the national team have taken several steps back and Cantwell believes that the foundations were not in place to back up her team's success.

"There is a reality that there wasn't any solid structures in place in rugby at that time and there wasn't huge changes made afterwards," she said.

"We're hopeful that it changes according to the (IRFU) action plan, because fundamentally we want more people playing.

"I want to use the success of it and use that as a platform to springboard from, as opposed to continue to reference (against) the fact that it's not improved since."

One criticism of the current set-up is the perception that the union is more focused on the Sevens game than the XVs, and Cantwell agrees that the balance between the two is off-kilter.

"It's a tough one," she said. "It's clear that we haven't got the right structures in place. We haven't got the right answer to what it takes to enable the XVs to aspire and be competitive as well as the Sevens.

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"We were hoping the action plan that came out last year would be strategic and map towards that success. We haven't seen the results yet.

"To a degree we have to wait and see what that produces. I've been in that sport for 17 years and seen a lot of those rotations. I have to be hopeful."

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