Women's chief insists 'Sevens is not the priority'
The IRFU have defended their decision to pull three key players from Ireland Women's Grand Slam bid and stated that "Sevens is not the priority."
Ireland host France in a crucial Six Nations clash on Sunday but will be without Sene Naoupu, Alison Miller and Hannah Tyrrell who will instead fly to Las Vegas on the same day for a World Series Sevens tournament which takes place next weekend.
The union's director of women's and sevens rugby Anthony Eddy pointed to the "development opportunities" that were being afforded to other players but on the back of a plethora of new caps handed out over the last couple of years, this Six Nations had been seen as a crucial tournament to establish partnerships ahead of the World Cup which takes place in Ireland in August.
It is understood that there has been discontent within the 15s squad at being forced to be without three players who are pivotal to the team.
"It was always the plan," Eddy said.
"We knew a long time ago that there would be difficulty in this time to manage the squads.
"We're certainly not disrespecting the tournament but we are looking to provide other girls with an opportunity to compete around positions for World Cup and Six Nations. We've got to go into the World Cup with 28 capable players and we absolutely used November for that opportunity and we're still continuing to look at opportunities for players to be exposed to the highest level.
"The long-term vision of it (Sevens) is that we want to be successful. You look at what other countries have done and you learn from them. It's been used as a development programme for men and women around the 15s game."
The trio, who are contracted Sevens players, are expected to return for Ireland's final two games against Wales and England, by which point, they will hope that they are still in with a chance of winning the Grand Slam, but there is no doubt that this decision has seriously dented their chances. Eddy insisted that Tom Tierney was fully on board with the decision and was part of the selection process.
The confusion over who gets selected when is made all the more murky by the fact that Louise Galvin, who is also contracted to the Sevens programme, is uncapped at 15s but is included in Tierney's squad on Sunday.
Ireland's opening World Cup game is just over six months away, yet it's difficult to know if the coaching staff know what the best match-day 23 is and Eddy accepted that.
Ireland Sevens' main aim this year is to maintain their status in the World Series and qualify for the Sevens World Cup next year.
With last year being an Olympic year, Sevens was understandably given priority but it had been expected that 15s would now take priority.
In relation to the widespread frustration that has arisen on the back of the decision, Eddy added: "If that's the case, that's probably disappointing because the fact is, the resources that are being put behind women's 15s programme over the last couple of years have been good. They are in a high performance programme now and you expect a high level of professionalism from all of those players."