The Irish Rugby Football Union have extended the contract of Performance Director David Nucifora for a further three years to the end of the 2021/22 season.
Appointed in April 2014, David was charged with developing and advancing all aspects of the professional game in Ireland, including the elite player development pathway, succession planning, professional coach development and overseeing all representative team performance from the provinces through to underage sides and the Ireland national teams. Other areas of focus include medical, sport science and elite referee development.
Over the past five years huge progress has been made in a number of areas such as the player development pathway, which now sees alignment across the provincial academies, the introduction of the National Talent squads, the establishment of a successful Sevens programme, and a strategic approach to recruitment of Irish qualified talent via IQ Rugby.
Investing in world class staff has been central to the creation of vibrant and dynamic professional environments in all four provinces and across the IRFU in the areas of coaching, athletic performance, medicine, nutrition and data analytics.
Since 2014 Irish Rugby’s high performance teams have experienced a period of unparalleled success – two Six Nations titles (2015 and 2018) and historic victories over New Zealand, Australia and South Africa for the men’s national team, a Six Nations Grand Slam (2019) for Ireland Under-20s and a second place finish at the 2016 World Rugby U-20 Championship, a Women’s Six Nations title in 2015, qualification for both the women and men onto the World Sevens Series, a Champions Cup title for Leinster (2018) and GUINNESS PRO12/14 titles for Connacht (2016) and Leinster (2018).
IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne commented: “The IRFU’s Plan Ireland report identified the need to create a Performance Director role to maximise the potential of our elite player pathway and identify areas where we as an organisation can improve, innovate and strive to be a leading nation in world rugby.
“David has delivered across a huge number of areas in that regard and Irish Rugby is in a better place for the experience, leadership and passion he has brought to the role. We are delighted that he has agreed to continue this important work over the coming years.”
IRFU Performance Director David Nucifora said: “I am delighted to sign up for another three years. Myself and my family have really enjoyed our time in Ireland to date and I am excited about the prospect of driving further advancements in Irish Rugby’s performance pathway.
Over the coming months we will see the culmination of a number of years work on a couple of very important projects. Irish Rugby’s High Performance Centre in Abbotstown will come on stream during the summer and another significant piece of infrastructure – a centralised player data management platform that ties together all of the disciplines that support Irish Rugby from the start of the Elite Player Pathway through to the national team will be in place ahead of the new season. This will further enhance Irish Rugby’s ability to build on their important player welfare management programme.
“There are now well established processes regarding player succession planning that flows from the start of the player pathway and links all provinces and is optimising appropriate opportunities to accelerate the development of our young elite players.
“Investment in high quality staff and driving alignment provincially and nationally throughout all disciplines via quality staff education programmes has been a key area of focus. We have quality coaches developing our players through the performance pathway and across the senior set-ups, supported by leading practitioners in the fields of athletic performance, medicine, nutrition and performance analysis.
“We have invested in an expanding elite coach education programme for our professional coaches and will continue to invest in all of these areas whilst seeking to attract further coaching talent and support staff expertise into the system.
“The Sevens programme is providing a high quality alternative development pathway for both men and women, and with both squads competing on the World Series next season this exciting version of the game will gain further profile and traction in Ireland. A number of male players have graduated from the Sevens programme and excelled at senior level for their provinces
One of the next big challenges will be to ensure that the IRFU’s competition and development structures support the ambitions of young players wishing to pursue an elite pathway in the game. This will involve greater alignment of the programmes in both the performance and participation pathways.
“The Women in Rugby Action Plan provides a blueprint to drive sustainable growth in the Women’s game and the High Performance team will be working closely with the Rugby Development department to help achieve the goals outlined in the plan.”