The Energia Women’s All-Ireland League is set to alter in both size and format for the 2020/21 season.
Following a comprehensive selection process, 10 teams will be invited to take part in Irish Rugby’s premier club rugby competition for women next year.
The eight teams that are currently in the Energia Women’s All-Ireland League will be joined by two teams competing at that level for the first time – Ballincollig RFC and Wicklow RFC.
Energia Women’s All-Ireland League 2020/21 Season:
Ballincollig*, Blackrock College, Cooke, Galwegians, Malone, Old Belvedere, Railway Union, Suttonians, UL Bohemian, Wicklow*.
*New for 2020/21 Season.
The league in its current format will be disbanded at the end of the current season, meaning no automatic promotion or relegation for 2019/20. It is intended to introduce promotion and relegation only at the end of the 2021/22 season.
Irish Rugby Women’s Development Manager Amanda Greensmith says it’s an exciting time for women in club rugby.
“The Energia Women’s All-Ireland League is our flagship club competition for women in rugby. We challenged clubs to look at their current practises and be ambitious about how they want to embrace the future.
“The result is a new league with a foot-print in each province that will provide a real pathway for players into the higher levels of the game. It was a rigorous process and we welcome both Ballincollig and Wicklow to the league for the first time.
“We will continue to work with all clubs who were successful in their application. Some of the criteria are aspirational in their nature and we recognise that standards in coaching, athletic development, medical support and analysis must continually be improved.”
Wicklow are a team on the rise in recent seasons and are backed by a strong underage programme. They were crowned Leinster U14, U16 and U18 Girls champions on another historic day for the club on December 15th.
Ballincollig’s inclusion means a return to Cork for Women’s All-Ireland League for the first time since the 2017/18. The club are in the process of completing an ambitious development of their grounds in time for next season.
The application process for the Energia Women’s All-Ireland League for the 2020/21 season also served as a sustainability health check for clubs. Clubs were tasked with identifying minimum operating standards in governance, finance, player development and player welfare.
A wide net was cast in inviting clubs to make submissions, according to IRFU Director Of Rugby Development Colin McEntee.
“Sustainability is at the heart of what we’re working towards for women in rugby and club rugby in general,” he said.
“We heard from clubs at very different stages in their journey and what we responded to was evidence of long-term planning. Sustainable participation is about the right pathways for players to develop and the right environments for players to perform.
“The door is still open for the clubs who weren’t ultimately successful in this process and we look forward to working with them. We need all clubs to put their shoulder to the wheel for women in rugby.”