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IRFU commit to 'accelerating the women’s game' in new plan

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - APRIL 27: Ireland players celebrate after the team's victory and qualification for the 2025 Women's Rugby World Cup during the Guinness Women's Six Nations 2024 match between Ireland and Scotland at Kingspan Stadium on April 27, 2024 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

The IRFU have placed the women’s game at the forefront of their new ‘Inspire, Connect, Thrive’ plan, which was launched today and will be implemented between 2024-2028.

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Described as having involved an ‘unprecedented level of collaboration between the IRFU and the four Provinces’, the strategy is the result of 15 months of discussions, involving more than 5,000 stakeholders in rugby.

Four priorities were laid out in the announcement: “Delivering great rugby experiences, driving our high-performance ambition, accelerating the women’s game, and inspiring our fans.”

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The plan details their target outcomes for women’s game which include creating ‘inspiring and truly inclusive experiences for all involved to attract and retain participants’, growing the game by ‘creating sustainable environments leading to lifelong career and volunteering opportunities’, and empowering officials, coaches, players, volunteers to reach their full potential.

Included in this is moving towards having four contracted provincial teams, and aspiring to achieve 40% female Governance representation at Provincial and Club level.

In addition, they will be looking to create more entry points in the game in collaboration with schools and university programmes, have clear Talent Identification and High-Performance Pathways, and devise dynamic marketing campaigns among other goals.

They will also be appointing a Women’s Strategy Implementation Lead, who will report to IRFU Chief Executive, Kevin Potts.

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A lack of commitment to the women’s game from the IRFU has been widely criticised in recent years. The recent plan comes after the 15s team secured a place at Women’s Rugby World Cup 2025 and WXV 1 for 2024 with an emphatic third-place finish in the Women’s Six Nations.

Since the appointment of Scott Bemand as head coach, the team were also victorious in the inaugural WXV 3 competition in 2023 which included a record-breaking 109-0 win over Kazakhstan on their way to sealing the overall title.

Ireland women’s sevens will compete in the Paris 2024 Olympics later this summer in what will be their first appearance at the Games. They finished seventh in the HSBC SVNS Series this year, picking up a gold medal in Perth.

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Potts said: “We are at an exciting phase in the history of Irish Rugby as we approach our 150th anniversary season. We should be proud of the ongoing success and strength of our game, with more participants and more fans than ever so I am delighted to release our strategic vision for Rugby in Ireland.

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“This plan, forged from the inputs of so many, is a solid expression of our collective vision, of the values of Irish Rugby and how they will form the basis for its development in the years ahead. Our vision is simple – Inspire, Connect and Thrive.

“Inspiring more people to play, support and volunteer in rugby; Connecting more people and communities through Rugby; and ensuring we provide the environments to enable all players, coaches, referees, volunteers and staff to Thrive through Rugby.

“The acceleration of our Women’s game is a major priority. With an Olympic Games just weeks away, and a Rugby World Cup firmly on the horizon in 2025, the potential to drive this aspect of Rugby in Ireland represents a major opportunity for the IRFU.”

IRFU Strategy & Projects Manager Kate Binchy added: “We are very fortunate to have a huge network of highly engaged and collaborative rugby stakeholders across our Provinces, Clubs, Volunteers, Staff, Supporters, Partners and our Players.

“They have all contributed to the development of this strategy, with over 5,000 people offering their views during the consultation process. Going forward each year as part of our annual report we will update on the ambitious KPIs that sit behind this plan and the targets we are striving for.

“This diversity of opinion and level of collaboration, ensures that all constituent parts of Irish Rugby have been heard and we hope will now align on the collective vision and roadmap which is reflected in this plan.”

The Women's Rugby World Cup 2025 is coming to England. Register now here to be the first to hear about tickets.

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