Thursday 19 September 2019

‘Support of men could make real difference’ - former rugby international Egan

Former international Egan calls on male players to lend voices to women's cause

Former International Ailis Egan. Photo: Diarmuid Greene / Sportsfile
Former International Ailis Egan. Photo: Diarmuid Greene / Sportsfile

Ruaidhri O'Connor​

As the IRFU took further steps to mitigate the fall-out from their decision to advertise the position of women's head coach as a part-time, six-month role, former international Ailis Egan called on top men's players to lend their support to the campaign to improve the lot of the women's game.

Last weekend, club players all over the country wore wristbands with the word #legacy written on them during All Ireland League games in a show of strength designed to put pressure on the IRFU who last night vowed to work with Rugby Players Ireland on the direction of the women's game.

Outgoing coach Tom Tierney was a full-time employee who shared the position with two other responsibilities. The union deny they have down-graded the role, but have said they regret any upset caused.

After hosting the Women's World Cup last August, the IRFU have not scheduled any November internationals for the women's team and Egan believes they risk falling behind their rivals if nothing is done.

Last night, the union chief Philip Browne issued a statement in which he "acknowledged the union's role in causing unintentional concern and confusion around the future of the women's game in Ireland".

The statement outlined that a 'focused steering group' would be established to review the current strategy for the women's game, with IRFU committee member Mary Quinn and former World Rugby women's development officer Su Carty at the helm.

Rugby Players Ireland will represent the players who the IRFU say "will be among the key groups consulted" in shaping the direction of the game.

Egan, who retired from the international game in the aftermath of the World Cup, said the support of the men's players, who meet in two high-profile interprovincial matches this weekend, would be a significant boost.

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"You look at other nations and when the male players get behind their women you actually see positive change happen," she said when asked if she would like to see the men wear the wristbands at the weekend.

"Everyone talks about rugby for everyone, it's one big family, and it would be a huge deal if everybody in the rugby community, the rugby family got behind what we're trying to do."

Johnny Sexton, an executive board member of RPI, was asked about the issue yesterday. He said he wasn't in a position to make an educated comment.

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