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IRFU to offer 43 centralised contracts for female players in ‘further signal of intent to foster and grow women's game’

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Beibhinn Parsons of Ireland during the TikTok Women's Six Nations Rugby Championship match against France. Parsons is among a number of players removed from that squad to join up with the Sevens team. Photo by Manuel Blondeau/Sportsfile

Beibhinn Parsons of Ireland during the TikTok Women's Six Nations Rugby Championship match against France. Parsons is among a number of players removed from that squad to join up with the Sevens team. Photo by Manuel Blondeau/Sportsfile

Beibhinn Parsons of Ireland during the TikTok Women's Six Nations Rugby Championship match against France. Parsons is among a number of players removed from that squad to join up with the Sevens team. Photo by Manuel Blondeau/Sportsfile

The Irish Rugby Football Union has announced it will offer 43 centralised contracts to elite women's players next season and appointed Gillian McDarby head of women's performance and pathways.

The contracts, which include agreements already in place for members of the women's sevens programme, have been benchmarked internationally and will be worth up to 30,000 euros (£25,234), plus match fees and bonuses.

Due to this month's Test matches in Japan and the Sevens World Cup in September in South Africa, the IRFU will wait to discuss contract details with players before publicising further information.

IRFU chief executive Kevin Potts said in a statement: "The creation of up to 43 IRFU contracts for women's players is a further strong signal of our intent to foster and grow the women's game over the coming years and to ensure that our women's players are provided with the best opportunities to compete at the highest levels of the game in the future."

McDarby, who was appointed following an "extensive recruitment process", will be responsible for the development and delivery of the governing body's performance programme for the women's game, including XVs and sevens.

She will work to grow the playing base of young women and girls and be tasked with developing a "cohesive player pathway" which connects and feeds the needs of both national programmes.

The former elite cyclist has held various previous roles with the IRFU, including women's rugby national teams programme manager between 2014 and 2016, having also been women's national team manager and a director for Cycling Ireland.

"I believe there is a huge growth opportunity for the women's game in Ireland and I am looking forward to working with all stakeholders to bring the women's game to the next level," said McDarby.

"It is also pleasing that my appointment coincides with the formal announcement of contracts for up to 43 female players. This is a major step forward for women's rugby in Ireland."

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