The return of the PwC IRFU Under-18 Women’s Interprovincial Championship has provided a major boost to the IRFU Player Pathway.
Connacht met Leinster at the IRFU High Performance Centre on Sunday, and it was clear how much it meant to the players, coaches and staff to make the most of the opportunity.
Irish Rugby TV was there to chat to players on the pathway and some of the people putting the infrastructure in place.
“There’s a huge amount of work gone in across the provinces from very experienced staff to deliver that high performance environment to the girls and to get them back up to speed after being out of the game for so long,” said IRFU Women’s Development Manager Amanda Greensmith.
“It’s a huge opportunity for these girls to be in that environment and to challenge each other and push each other.
“It plays an important part in players starting on the journey to fulfil their ambitions of playing provincially and nationally.
“Being in the HPC allows us to have the Talent ID coaches on site. It gives them the opportunity to benchmark these players and see where the standards are across the four provinces and look at areas where we can work with the provinces in helping to develop these players on the pathway.”
The first game of the series went to Leinster, led by captain Aoife Wafer. Having played at Under-18 level for Leinster in 2019, the young Wexford woman was delighted to be back representing her province.
“Everybody wants to prove why they were picked and I think they really did that today,” she told Irish Rugby TV. “It’s great to get a run-out and see what we have to improve on as a squad going forward.
There’s been a lot of players gone through the systems. It’s fantastic to see that the pathway is working.
“Everyone is progressing through it and getting their rugby up, their skill-set up and their fitness up. It’s just brilliant to see everyone progressing and all at the same pace.”
Fraser Gow has coached in the Connacht Under-18 Women’s set-up for a number of years.
“The U-18 Interpro level is extremely competitive across the four provinces,” he said. “It starts from the underage programmes in clubs and filters into the Connacht, Leinster, Ulster and Munster pathways.
“We brought in 45 players as a training squad to start with through screening venues. We worked with that 45 for a month or so before cutting down to the 30, but everyone acquitted themselves really well.”
This weekend also saw senior Women’s Interprovincial games being televised for the first time.
Gow added: “Having them on telly – the players here can see the progression and the pathway that’s there for them. If they go out and stick to the hard work that they put in, I’m sure they’ll achieve it.”