The long awaited strategic plan for Ireland Women’s Rugby was announced yesterday with the IRFU setting big targets for player recruitment but low targets for the Ireland Women’s teams performances in the XV game and 7’s.
In terms of recruitment, which has little detail as to how the targets are to be achieved, the goals over the next five years are as follows.
|Third Level Players||553||1000|
|Secondary School Participation||87||150|
These are ambitious targets but starting from such low bases they are achievable. There are no plans for any full time player roles outside of 7s rugby.
The disappointing aspect of the report is the the lack of ambition in performance targets for both the XV’s Team and the 7’s Team which I suppose is a tacit acceptance of the decline of the Ireland women’s programme since the heady days of 2013 and 2014.
Ireland Women completed the Six Nations Grand Slam in 2013, were briefly ranked as 2nd in the World in 2014 and finished 4th in the 2014 World Cup. They won the Six Nations outright in 2015 and since then have finished 3rd, 2nd and 3rd during the last three years.
Ireland women 7’s finished 5th in the first World Series Sevens tournament they entered in 2012, the team was almost exclusively made up of 15’s specialists. Following the introduction of specialist coaching and a development programme in 2013 it took them three years to get out of the bottom four and the highest finish they have achieved was 6th at Langford 2018 and at Glendale last weekend.
With these previous performances it was with some disappointment that I read the following targets.
|WRWC 2021 Qualification & top 6 finish|
|One Women’s Six Nations Title (Top 3 otherwise)|
|Qualification for 2020 Olympics Sevens|
|Qualification for 2020 Sevens Rugby World Cup|
|Win two Sevens World Series Tournaments|
|Consistent Top 6 Finish Sevens World Series|
|Consistent Top 2 Finish European U-18 S|
However, when you look at how far the Women’s programme has fallen behind other teams over the last four years even these targets seem somewhat distant unless there is some form of professionalism for the elite women players.
On the World Stage, Ireland have already lost massive ground to New Zealand, Australia, England, France, USA and Canada who, with the exception of Canada, all look to be putting together better programmes than Ireland in both sevens and XV’s.
In reality the targets consist of keeping ahead of Wales, Italy and Scotland in XVs and Spain and Russia in 7s and hoping that the luck of the draw takes out a couple of the better teams!
It’s a long way from the euphoria of Parabiago in 2013 and Marcoussis in 2014.