Tuesday 20 August 2019

Comment - Irish rugby players could follow Cora Staunton to Australia to escape IRFU's quest to belittle them

Cormac Byrne

I've had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach since the IRFU announced they were downgrading the role of the Irish Women's head coach to a part-time role.

It's 23 days since Ireland delivered its bid presentation to World Rugby for the 2023 Rugby World Cup amid applause, collective nods and back slapping.

Bob Geldof and Bono were among those to throw their weight behind the bid which is being underwritten by Irish taxpayers, men and women.

In 27 days we'll find out whether we have beaten off competition from France and South Africa and all indications suggest we have.

It seems bizarre, mean-spirited, backward-thinking and downright despicable for the IRFU to choose this time to deliver a blow to the gut of the women's game.

Ireland used the success of this year's hosting of the Women's Rugby World Cup to bolster their claims to have the Webb Ellis Cup handed out at Croke Park in six years time.

The IRFU's performance director David Nucifora described how the Irish women's team had been 'well enough' prepared for the tournament, a description that led to a lot of grinding of teeth.

Nucifora, employed on a professional full-time basis by the IRFU, spoke in July about 'investing money more efficiently' in the women's game.

International Rugby Newsletter

Rugby insights and commentary from our renowned journalists like Neil Francis, Will Slattery, Alan Quinlan & Cian Tracey.

If this new part-time role is what 'more efficiently' looks like, then it's time that he and the IRFU took a long, hard look at themselves.

Tom Tierney copped a lot of flak for Ireland's disappointing eighth-placed finish in the World Cup after he had led the team for three years as a full-time coach.

The IRFU response to the major deficiencies that Ireland performance illustrated? Make it a part-time post and offer potential candidates a six month deal. This is galling to players and volunteers up and down the country.

What is the IRFU's rationale here? Ireland were World Cup semi-finalists in 2014 (something the men have yet to achieve) but they have now fallen way behind the best teams in the game. Are we going to catch up with them by going slower than everybody else?

Is the plan to jettison the 15s game for the 7s game? Does a potential Olympic berth trump Six Nations and World Cups?

Jenny Murphy described it as a 'kick in the teeth'. Anyone who has ever seen the Kildare woman thunder into a tackle could never doubt her commitment to the Irish jersey but serious questions must be asked of the governing body and their motives for this move.

The IRFU have not only downgraded the role of head coach, they have downgraded morale, have undermined the quest for excellence and have decimated what has been achieved in recent years through the likes of Niamh Briggs, Fiona Coghlan, Nora Stapleton, Lynne Cantwell and more.

Mayo footballer Cora Staunton has signed a professional contract this morning with the Greater Western Sydney Giants in the AFLW.

As well as other stars of ladies football, the AFLW may look at recruiting Irish rugby stars and given the regressive approach from the IRFU, it may be an alluring prospect.

The Irish Women's Soccer team had to threaten to boycott a game to ensure that standards were raised and their rugby counterparts should examine their actions and the results it yielded very closely.

The Irish women's team will continue to be a source of pride and inspiration to many despite this injustice.

Online Editors

The Left Wing: The 'hell' of World Cup training camp, Ireland's half-back dilemma and All Blacks uncertainty

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport