New IRFU CEO Kevin Potts views it as a ‘priority’ is to resolve player concerns as women’s Six Nations looms

IRFU chief executive Kevin Potts is meeting with the players' representative group. Photo: Sportsfile

Sinéad Kissane

A meeting between new IRFU chief executive Kevin Potts and a representative group from the Irish women’s team will take place in the coming days to discuss issues raised by players in a strongly-worded letter sent to the Government last month.

An IRFU spokesperson told the Irish Independent last night that Potts views it as a “priority” that relations between the group of players who signed the letter and the IRFU be resolved as soon as possible, especially with the 2022 Women’s Six Nations starting in just over two months’ time.

The players’ group met with officials from Sport Ireland on Tuesday in their second meeting with the organisation, which has an oversight role, to try and resolve the issues.

Potts – who started as CEO earlier this month – has already spoken with a representative of the players’ group and an agreement was reached on the structure and format of this imminent meeting. An official from Sport Ireland has also been invited to attend.

Among the items to be discussed will be the independent review into the 2021 Rugby World Cup qualification campaign, which is expected to be published shortly.

Last month, a letter signed by 62 former and current players was sent to the Minister for Sport Catherine Martin and the Minister of State for Sport Jack Chambers, with the players stating they had “lost all trust and confidence in the IRFU and its leadership after historic failings”.

The letter, signed by the recently-retired Ireland captain Ciara Griffin and former Grand Slam-winning players including Fiona Coghlan, Claire Molloy and Lynne Cantwell, and by current players including Cliodhna Moloney and Sene Naoupu, called for the Government to intervene after “multiple cycles of substandard commitment from the union” as well as “inequitable and untrustworthy leadership”.

The letter also cited “a lack of transparency in the governance and operation of the women’s game” and “total lack of ambition” about what the women’s game could achieve.

Ministers Martin and Chambers quickly responded to the players’ letter, by stating it is being considered with “the utmost seriousness”.

The ministers met with the players’ representative group on Monday, December 20 and separately with the IRFU to formally raise the players’ concerns.

Three days previously – and in a major U-turn to usual procedure in the union – the IRFU announced it would fully publish the two independent reviews into women’s rugby currently being undertaken.

The IRFU stated it will “work tirelessly to mend and build the relationship between the union and our players”, which was a more conciliatory tone to the union’s initial response to the players’ letter, which said it “refutes the overall tenor” of the players’ document and dismissed it as “outside interference” while the reviews were ongoing.

During parliamentary questions in the Dáil yesterday, Minister Chambers went through the steps being taken by the players’ representative group, the IRFU and Sport Ireland over the past month and said he is “hopeful that this process will result in a positive outcome for women’s rugby”.

Ireland’s opening game of the 2022 Women’s Six Nations takes place on Saturday, March 26 against Wales at the RDS.

It will be head coach Greg McWilliams’s first game in charge.