The squad named today contains a number of experienced members of the Women's Team that competed strongly in this season's RBS 6 Nations including Ireland's most capped player Lynne Cantwell, versatile back Amy Davis and strong running number 8 Joy Neville as well as a number of players who made the breakthrough at international level recently such as Ashleigh Baxter.
Connacht, Leinster, Munster, Ulster and the Exiles all took part in the blitz to allow newly appointed Women's Sevens Coach Jon Skurr to view the top players and make a decision on a reduced 21 player training and competition squad. Gemma Crowley, who is the full fifteen-a-side Women's Team Manager, will also work with the Sevens panel over their extended preparations.
In addition to the programme and structures for the Women's team, the IRFU Club Sevens competitions, which were announced recently, are also part of the long term women's sevens programme to continue to build a sustainable sevens culture in the women's game.
Jon Skurr, who coached the Ireland Men's Team in the 2009 Rugby World Cup Sevens in Dubai, has selected an elite squad of 21 players which he will work with through weekend camps and rotate through three warm up tournaments in Kinsale, Amsterdam and Bournemouth during May and June. The squad are already two weeks into the training programme.
The IRFU yesterday received confirmation from FIRA of the Ireland Team's entry to the European competitions that will give countries qualification for the IRB 2013 Sevens Rugby World Cup in Moscow.
The qualifying schedule begins with a tournament in Ghent, Belgium from June 8th - 10th and includes strong opposition with Scotland, Poland, Georgia and Belgium seen as the main contenders.
The Ireland Team will need to have a top two finish in that competition to progress to the final European qualifying tournament. This will take place in Moscow from June 28th - July 1st, with only the top five teams going through to the World Championships the following year in the same venue.
Fiona Coghlan, Captain of the full fifteen-a-side Ireland Team, who is currently recovering from injury, said, "This is a great step forward that the IRFU have taken for the women's game and hopefully we can bring some of our recent good form and success from the fifteen-a-side game to sevens.
"It is a totally different type of game in terms of physical preparation and tactics, but hopefully at the end of the training camps and tournaments, we will know how far this can take us."
Scott Walker, IRFU Director of Rugby Development and the Club Game said: "Ireland has a small pool of women players and one concern has always been about maximising the competitiveness of the team, while balancing the physical and personal demands on an extremely talented generation of amateur players.
"The results of the women's team have been particularly encouraging, especially this season where they played an exciting brand of rugby, so this opportunity of beginning a successful sevens culture was one that was presented to the women's panels in the four provinces. We were delighted with the response and the numbers who were willing to commit to what is an intensive programme, especially for players who are not training full time.
"The programme is a reflection of the preparation of other competing nations, who have less strong rugby traditions but have committed to the sevens game under their own Olympic elite organisation programmes and support structures. The women's squad have begun their preparations which will hopefully culminate with qualification for the World Sevens next year, with a view to looking at future Olympic participation.
Ireland Women's Sevens Squad 2012 *
Ashleigh Baxter (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster)
Lynne Cantwell (Richmond/Exiles)
Nicole Caughey (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster)
Amy Davis (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster)
Jeannette Feighery (UL Bohemians/Munster)
Shannon Houston (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster)
Ashling Hutchings (UL Bohemians/Munster)
Niamh Kavanagh (UL Bohemians/Munster)
Claire Keohane (UL Bohemians/Munster)
Alison Miller (Portlaoise/Connacht)
Claire Molloy (Bristol RFC/Exiles/Connacht)
Jacqueline Mulligan (Sligo/Connacht)
Jennifer Murphy (Richmond/Exiles)
Áine Ní Chatháin (Garda RFC/Leinster)
Mollie O'Donnell (UL Bohemians/Munster)
Laura O'Mahony (Tralee/Munster)
Beth O'Brien (Oxford University/Exiles)
Rachael Potter (Saracens/Exiles)
Meadhbh Westwood (Waterloo/Exiles)
*Final player to be confirmed following April training camps.
Coach - Jon Skurr
Manager - Gemma Crowley
Physiotherapist - Dr. Ulrik McCarthy Persson
Physiotherapist - Dom Hoban
S&C Coach - Ross Callaghan
Analyst - Gillian Burke
Nutritionist - Ruth Kilcawley
Squad Coordinator - Jean Casey
Ireland Women's Sevens Schedule 2012
April 6th: Interprovincial Competition/Screening 65 players
April 13th - 28th: Weekend training camps 21 players
May 4th - 6th: Kinsale Sevens 12 players
May 12th - 13th: Camp 21 players
May 18th - 20th: Amsterdam Sevens 12 players
May 26th - 27th: Camp 21 players
June 1st - 3rd: Bournemouth Sevens 12 players
June 8th - 10th: FIRA Qualifying, Ghent, Belgium 12 players
June 23rd: Camp 14 players
June 28th - July 1st: FIRA Qualifying, Moscow 12 players