Former Ireland rugby international Fiona Hayes has said women’s rugby will pay for itself if the IRFU “give it a chance” and invest in it.
The IRFU today apologised to any players who felt they had been ignored in the past and pledged to invest a further €1m per year into the women’s game.
The union said it would not be publishing the full report into the Irish team's failure to qualify for the last World Cup – but have accepted all 30 of its recommendations.
The report was commissioned after the women’s team experienced a major setback in fortunes – going from a Grand Slam in 2013 to failure to qualify for the World Cup in 2021.
On The Hard Shoulder this evening, former international Fiona Hayes said he ‘100% welcomes the apology”.
“I think it is great that they have come out and done that and said look, here, we were wrong,” she said
“There is a slight bit of disappointment that the full report wasn’t published but I know they have given reasons behind that and to me, it says that really there were a lot of things going on behind the scenes that can’t really be talked about due to data protection.”
She said the team has experienced a massive decline since 2014 – noting that the incident that annoyed her most was when the IRFU advertised for apart-time coach a few years ago.
“That really annoyed me,” she said. “Ex-players were leaving that jersey in a good place.
“I was lucky to be on that team that beat the All Blacks in the World Cup in France. In 2015, we won the Six Nations. We had that Grand Slam in 2013.
“It was in a good place and we thought it was going to get more professional and get higher and higher and then after the world Cup, it was almost like things didn’t happen.
“People probably didn’t perform. Things didn’t fall into place and it was almost like the IRFU took a step back and said, look we won’t look at the 15’s game as hard and we’ll focus on the 7’s and the Olympics.”
She said the women’s game can get to a stage where it pays for itself with the right investment now.
“It is kind of at a stage where you can look at it and say let’s start putting the money in and hopefully down the road, we will see it and we will get the revenue back from the women’s game,” she said.
“Give it a chance because I think a lot more people are watching and you know everyone has opinions on the women’s game but me personally, I think the standard over the last number of years is getting much higher and it is really exciting rugby being played.
“It is about getting those processes in place so we can see it and it is funded and it becomes high performance.”
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