As the Ireland Women’s Team returned home as Grand Slam winners with an historic first ever RBS 6 Nations Championship trophy, the IRFU have announced details of further development in the Women’s game with an ultimate target of Olympic success.
With support from the Irish Sports Council, the IRFU have made the decision to commit to a long term Women’s Sevens Programme with the express goal of qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro. The programme will entail an investment of over €1.1 million per annum to create a high performance squad with the aspiration to qualify and successfully compete in Rio in 2016.
In addition to qualification for the Rio games, the strategic aims of the new IRFU Olympic Sevens programme are to:
- Raise the profile of Irish female team sports
- Increase female participation in the game of rugby
- Position rugby as the sport of choice for young women
With the decision to commit to the Rio 2016 qualification programme, and to ensure long term success in 15-aside and Sevens, the IRFU will continue to operate a sport transfer, Talent Identification Programme (TID) open to all players and athletes who have the potential to play elite women’s rugby. This TID programme has been in operation since January this year with several screening camps taking place throughout Ireland. To date, over 100 players have taken part in screening camps and further camps will be confirmed in the coming weeks. Further information on how to become one of Ireland’s elite sevens players, and potentially represent Ireland in the Rio games, can be found on www.irishrugby.ie.
The women’s ‘Road to Rio’ journey begins tomorrow when an elite Irish sevens squad departs for China to take part in the Hong Kong Sevens Women’s Invitational (22-24 March) and the IRB Women’s Sevens World Series in Guangzhou, China’s third largest city, (30-31 March).
Scott Walker, IRFU Director of Rugby Development and the Club Game said:
“The success of the Women’s team is a mark of their commitment to the game and the culmination of many years hard work by the players and management. I know that everybody in Irish Rugby would like to congratulate them on their achievement. The IRFU will be working to ensure that this success acts as a springboard for recruitment to women’s rugby and we see women’s sevens and the Olympics as a key component to that development.
“The announcement in 2009 that Rugby Sevens was to be included within the Olympic programme from 2016 onwards provides Ireland with another opportunity, in addition to the National 15-aside team, both to achieve success on the international stage, and to deliver a boost to the growth of women’s rugby at grassroots levels through the provision of an aspirational career path and role models within the sport.
“The success of our sevens programme in such a short space of time to qualify for the Sevens Rugby World Cup, which takes place in Moscow in June, is a mark of the talent and commitment of our representative women. To continue to sustain this, it is important for us to expand our pool of players and to identify possible future players.
“The IRFU’s Olympic Sevens programme will entail both the talent identification process and necessary support structures for athletes to compete at the levels necessary to not only hopefully qualify for the Rio game, but compete for a podium finish.”
Traditionally the Women’s game in Ireland has been oriented heavily towards the 15-a-side game and at present, Ireland competes in the Women’s RBS 6 Nations Championship and, every fourth year, the Women’s Rugby World Cup. The IRFU’s objective for the 15 a-side game is to achieve a top 6 finish at the Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2015.
In tandem with this, an elite Women’s Sevens Rugby programme has been established since March 2012, which successfully reached the target of qualification for the 2013 Rugby World Cup Sevens, which takes place in Moscow at the end of June.
While the 15-a-side game will remain a key foundation to the development of the Women’s game, the incentive of possible Olympic participation is also seen as an important driver to increasing participation of women in rugby. To activate the profile created through international success at 15-aside and Sevens, the IRFU be implementing a series of programmes to assist clubs in creating the opportunity for more females to participate in rugby.
There has been significant overlap of player’s representing both the successful Women’s 15-a-side team and the 7-a-side team due the limited pool of players currently available. This short-term strategy was to ensure a competitive team was in place for the 2013 Rugby World Cup Sevens.
To ensure long-term competitiveness at both 15-a-side and 7-a-side, the IRFU recognised the need to undertake a Talent Identification Programme to target players from other sports with the necessary skills to play Sevens rugby and who were attracted to the opportunity to represent Ireland in the Olympic games.
For further information contact:
IRFU Communications & Media Manager
M: +353 (0) 866477874