10 Dec, 12:23
Ireland's John Lacey will referee his first ever RBS 6 Nations match in February, while Alain Rolland is also included in the Elite Panel in what is his last season.
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 sport
- 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-a-side 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 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.
The Women's 'Road to Rio' journey begins tomorrow when an elite Irish Sevens squad travels to take part in the Hong Kong Sevens Women's Invitational (March 22-24) and the IRB Women's Sevens World Series in Guangzhou, China's third largest city, (March 30-31). The squad will be announced tomorrow.
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-a-side 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 Rugby World Cup Sevens, 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 Games, but compete for a podium finish."
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