The IRFU has today given an update on the Women’s game in Ireland and officially introduced the new head coach for the Women’s 15s national team, Scott Bemand.
Gillian McDarby, the IRFU’s Head of Women’s Performance & Pathways, outlined the progress in the Women’s programme with new appointments and structural changes.
McDarby confirmed that there will be ongoing transitions between 15s and Sevens players for competitions such as WXV and the 2024 TikTok Women’s Six Nations, in line with the Union’s strategic priorities.
She also outlined how the first full year of a national pathway for Under-18s and Under-20s-23s, development of a university partnership and setting up the Sevens competition structure is underway across all four provinces since August.
Bemand, the former Red Roses lead coach, outlined his plans for the upcoming WXV3 tournament in Dubai along with his vision for the future of Irish Women’s rugby.
He had earlier this week announced his first squad for the tournament, which includes seven uncapped players.
Bemand explained that from the outset of the interview process for the role, it was clear the IRFU had a real drive to make this a leading programme. He said that change requires a mindset and expertise, and that the process had begun to make Ireland proud again. He commented:
We have a group of players that are buying into the environment and the core identity that will unleash the potential within them.
“The team know where we’re headed, and we know the work that will get us there. WXV is the perfect opportunity to start implementing.”
The new Ireland head coach outlined that the three-year aim is to qualify for Rugby World Cup 2025 in England, but that the longer-term aspiration is to be a contender for the 2029 tournament in Australia.
At the briefing, Bemand also announced that forwards Sam Monaghan and Edel McMahon will be co-captains for the upcoming WXV3 campaign.
Monaghan and McMahon were previously team-mates at Wasps, and Edel says she is ‘extremely honoured to have been asked by Scott to captain this team alongside her friend Sam’.
Monaghan added: “We have a really clear goal and some good momentum over the past two weeks with the direction we are heading both off and off the pitch. We can’t wait to get to Dubai.”
Addressing the issue of a disappointing Six Nations campaign in 2023, McDarby confirmed that a culture and leadership review had taken place with programmes now in place to drive and sustain high performance.
To facilitate this, a Leadership & Culture lead, Sean Ryan, had been appointed to work with the team. Sean has worked with high performance teams previously, most notably last season with the Munster coaching team.
The IRFU is also pleased to announce that recruitment will shortly open to fill the three independent positions on its Women’s Game Advisory Group. The recommendation to add three independent external experts in women’s sport came in the ‘Women in Rugby’ Report released in December 2022.
Ireland travel to Dubai on Friday, October 6, and play in the WXV3. Their games are against Kazakhstan on Friday, October 13, Colombia on Saturday, October 21, and Spain on Saturday, October 28. They will be free to stream live on World Rugby’s RugbyPass TV platform.