The IRFU have announced the pathways and structures which they hope will take an Irish women’s team to the 2013 Rugby World Cup Sevens and possibly the 2016 Olympics.
The governing body have however confirmed that no such similar efforts will be made for the men’s game. A union spokesperson confirmed that there are two reasons for their continued refusal to try to make a serious effort at the smaller sided men’s game; those reasons being finance and the lack of a confirmed qualifying process for the Games in Rio in four summers’ time.
Of the two, finance is clearly the bigger issue. The IRFU undertook a working review of what it would cost to commit to an Irish men’s sevens side 18 months ago and came up with a figure of over €1million annually, which would incorporate everything from player contracts to travel costs and backroom staff.
“Where would that money come from?” asked IRFU spokesperson Karl Richardson. From the club game or from one or all of the provinces? We are not prepared to do that and sacrifice success in other areas to do it.”
The women’s side will consist of amateur players and their circuit will involve considerably fewer tournaments and travel, thus costing a fraction of that €1million figure. Their bid for a place at the 2013 global event started with an inter-provincial blitz at the start of April that allowed newly-named national coach John Skurr the chance to assess the players’ capabilities and adaptability to the sevens game.
Skurr selected a squad of 21 players which he will work with through weekend camps and rotate through warm-up tournaments in Kinsale, Amsterdam and Bournemouth during May and June.
The squad contains many of the experienced members of the women’s team that won three of their five fixtures at this years’ Six Nations, amongst them Ireland’s most capped player Lynne Cantwell.