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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Michael Scully

IRFU CEO Kevin Potts heralds 'new dawn' for women's game as recommendations published

IRFU chiefs have created two new roles to head up Women's rugby and accepted 30 recommendations from an independent report into Ireland's failure to qualify for the Rugby World Cup that will be held in New Zealand later this year.

A head of Women's Performance and Pathways will be recruited and a full-time Women's XV's National Team Programme Manager has been appointed, while a further €1m will be invested into the women's game, bringing the total up to around €4m.

The Director of Women's Rugby role vacated yesterday by Anthony Eddy is no more.

"Anthony Eddy's old role is gone," said new IRFU CEO Kevin Potts, who issued an apology to player representatives for the lack of confidence in the Union that prompted 62 present and former players to write to Ministers Catherine Martin and Jack Chambers.

Asked if the timing of the review was linked to the Australian's departure, Potts responded: “They’re not linked at all.

"Anthony informed the IRFU of his intention to pursue other opportunities as per his statement and we wish him well.”

The review was conducted by former Wales player Amanda Bennett of Fair Play Ltd, who interviewed players, high-performance and performance programme staff among others.

Before a presentation was made by Bennett this afternoon, however, the IRFU confirmed that the full report will not be published, for legal reasons.

"Following discussions with FairPlay Ltd. and the IRFU’s external legal counsel, the IRFU was unequivocally advised that publication of the full report could be seen as a breach of confidentiality for those who participated in it," read an IRFU statement.

"This view is understood by the players’ representatives who are satisfied that the requests they made throughout discussions have been met.

"Consequently, today’s publication is focussed on the recommendations, as per the terms of reference agreed when this work was commissioned.

"This decision is understood and accepted by Sport Ireland and Ministers Catherine Martin and Jack Chambers."

The IRFU has also met with player representatives and Sport Ireland earlier today to discuss the review (recommendations above).

"All parties are satisfied with the outcome and have committed to working collectively to action the recommendations," the Union statement added.

Potts has met with player representatives on several occasions since taking over in January.

He says he has "formally apologised" to them for the Union's failings.

"I apologise for any lack of confidence (in the IRFU) and for any perceived lack of interest from the IRFU in the women's game," Potts said.

"The channels are wide open, as far as I'm concerned, to the players and that is going to remain in place as long as I'm CEO.

"It certainly wouldn't be the IRFU's policy to advising people not to speak looking at the future.

"I'm always available to speak to players or anybody, and have an open invitation to the players to speak to me any time they want."

He also revealed that the IRFU has appointed Gemma Crowley, the British and Irish Lions former team operations manager, as Ireland head coach Greg McWilliams' team manager.

Potts commented: “Our vision for Irish Rugby, as set out in our Strategic Plan 2018 – 2023, is based on ‘Building success together’. We have fallen short of this aspiration in our women’s game.

"However, we are committed to putting this right and we regard the recommendations of this independent review as a solid basis from which to reignite the long-term development of women’s rugby in Ireland.

IRFU chief executive Kevin Potts (©INPHO/Dan Sheridan)

"As part of the entire process, we have listened directly to the player’s concerns, and we understand their desire to see changes implemented that will address the issues which contributed to the failure to qualify for the Rugby World Cup and to further develop the women’s game and lay strong foundations and pathways for success in the future.

"Indeed, we strongly share this desire.

"In December the IRFU made a commitment, in good faith, to publish this independent review in full.

"However, while the recommendations in Amanda Bennett’s thorough review are being published today, we are not in a position to publish the review in full.

“I appreciate that this may require further explanation. The confidential nature of participants’ contributions and commitments made by the panel to those who participated; players, coaches, volunteers, and staff, must be respected and I intend to do so.

"This decision is understood by the players’ representative group, Sport Ireland and by the Ministers.

“This was an independent review. Players, coaches, and staff contributed feedback openly and honestly as part of a collective effort to analyse the reasons for the failure to qualify for the World Cup and, more importantly, to identify solutions to address them.

"I thank them for their participation and for their ongoing commitment to the often-difficult path of continual improvement demanded in a high-performance culture.

“The 30 recommendations published today are detailed and are testament to the robust feedback provided.

"They have formed the basis for a series of constructive briefings which have been held with the players, with representatives of the player group who wrote to the Minister, with Sport Ireland and with the Department of Sport."

Potts added: "I'd like to believe this is a kick off point, this is the dawn of a new era for women's rugby in Ireland.

"The whole climate around women's rugby will be positive because we are fully committed to it. Everything in the review will be considered very seriously."

In a statement signed by Ciara Griffin, Claire Molloy, Cliodhna Moloney and Lindsay Peat, the players' representatives have welcomed the "comprehensive" recommendations from the IRFU have released a statement in response to the IRFU documents.

Ireland's now retired skipper Ciara Griffin celebrates after scoring a try against Japan with Sene Naoupu and Aoife McDermott (©INPHO/Bryan Keane)

They also describe the publication as a "first step on a journey towards a new era for Irish women's rugby, but it is a vitally important one."

Their statement reads: "We welcome the publication of a comprehensive set of recommendations today following the Rugby World Cup Qualifier Independent Review.

"This is in line with the request made by the players during the review process and we are pleased that the recommendations have been accepted in full by the IRFU.

"While they clearly highlight the many challenges surrounding the national 15s programme in Ireland, we believe that these recommendations and their implementation have the potential to make a significant and positive difference for women’s rugby in Ireland.

"As a group, we have been meeting regularly in recent months with the IRFU and Sport Ireland.

"Kevin Potts, chief executive of the IRFU, has taken a proactive and inclusive approach to these discussions and has taken considerable time to understand the issues and demonstrate his commitment to resolving them. This has been extremely welcome, and we want to thank him for his leadership.

"Today's announcement by the IRFU is a welcome first step on a journey towards a new era for Irish women's rugby, but it is a vitally important one.

"We are committed to further collaboration including ahead of the publication of another crucial review later this year which is looking at the overall game across the country.

"Together, the changes that emerge as a result of all of this work, alongside renewed commitment in women’s rugby right from the top of the IRFU, means we can look to the future with greater confidence than ever before."

Wasps hooker Moloney was publicly critical of Eddy's comments in the wake of the qualification failure.

Potts insisted that her omission from the Six Nations squad had nothing to do with Moloney's criticism.

"Absolutely guaranteed that's not the case, it's form," said Potts.

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