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Women's Rugby World Cup

by Frank Schnittger Fri Aug 18th, 2017 at 05:07:18 PM EST

The Women's Rugby World Cup is taking place in Ireland at the moment with the initial group stages just completed in Dublin, and the ranking matches, Semi Finals and Finals scheduled for Belfast over the next week. England, with a semi-professional squad, are the holders and favourites, but France have also been investing in their squad, New Zealand are always strong, and the USA have been improving rapidly.

Women's international rugby is an emerging sport with participation, funding and standards improving rapidly from a very low base. Standards are as yet very uneven around the world with many very one-sided encounters in this world cup, the worst of which was a 121-0 drubbing of Hong Kong by New Zealand.

Ireland won the Women's Six Nations Championship with a grand slam in 2013 and again in 2015 and finished fourth in the 2014 Women's world Cup but have struggled to beat Australia and Japan in their first two matches this time around. They have just lost to France 21-5 in a very good match watched by over three million people on TV in France alone.

This has led to some criticism of the lack of funding by the Irish Rugby Football Union of the all-amateur Irish team. Gavin Cummiskey has a hit piece up at the Irish Times saying "Badly coached, the wonder is were Ireland badly handled as well? We cannot possibly know. On Tierney's watch, access to this special group of Irish rugby players has been airtight".

Could it be sour grapes on the part of a journalist denied access to players? Could it be a male journalist reluctant to criticise female players and having a go at the male coach instead? We certainly went into a the game with a game plan based on an allegedly superior set piece which fell apart when that superiority failed to materialise. We also didn't trust our backs to be able to outrun the French backs, and so relied inordinately on one-out runners in the forwards. However on the few occasions when we did try to run the ball out in the wider channels we made limited progress.

It was clear in the first few minutes that France had far superior players, particularly in the backs and back row, and that a game Irish team were struggling to keep up. Other than not having a plan for how to deal with the French not competing on Irish line-outs or engaging with Irish mauls, it's not clear that any coaching game plan would have led to a different outcome.

While this Ireland team has had considerable success in the past, it seems clear that standards in women's rugby are improving rapidly, with the English and French approaching semi-professional status. What was good enough three years ago is no longer good enough now. Either we invest more in the women's game or we will struggle to compete at the top level. With over three million people watching the match on TV in France alone, it seems clear that the game will over-take us if we don't invest more in the women's game in the future.

One of the problems with the Women's world cup was that teams were required to play 3 matches in 8 days.  That's fine if it is a walk in the park and you are winning 50-0 while resting and subbing your best players. But Ireland had three tough matches and so had to make maximum use of all their 28 squad members (also less than men's world cup squads of 31 players).

Training and practice times between matches had to be severely curtailed to allow players maximum time to recover. The upshot was that Head Coach Tierney had rotate and rest his players as much as possible, and to do that he had to build strength in depth in the squad.  You can only do that by giving fringe players game time in the run up to the World Cup. Sadly, some were not up to standard.

This lack of strength in depth also meant Ireland never recovered from losing Captain, Niamh Briggs to injury on the eve of the tournament. Ironically, one of Ireland's best players turned out to be debutant Nicole Cronin at scrum half, who wasn't even picked in the original squad and came in as a late injury substitute.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Aug 19th, 2017 at 09:58:17 AM EST
Ruth O'Reilly, Irish Women's international, has spilt the beans on what went wrong for the women's team at this world cup in an article in the Irish Times.

She speaks of ongoing battles with the IRFU hierarchy and says Coach Tom Tierney lost the group when some players were diverted to the Seven's team just before the 6 Nations. Tom claimed he found out like everyone else but then Director of Women's and Seven's rugby, Anthony Eddie said Tom had known that was the plan all along.

A split developed between the Sevens and 15s players and one-upmanship crept into training sessions. "Tom is not big on set piece work so lineout and scrums got minimal attention." Communications were dire and and management took no action on game plans the players had been asked to prepare.

Her disagreement was punished by exclusion. In general an authoritarian and patronising approach by the IRFU didn't help - mature women don't like being treated like children - and yet despite all this the players played their hearts out. It won't make for comfortable reading by the IRFU.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Aug 26th, 2017 at 08:07:10 AM EST
Far be it for me to act as an apologist for the IRFU, but they are mainly focused on the men's professional game now because that is where nearly all the revenue is coming from. Amateur rugby, both Men's and women's, is struggling for lack of funding and a strategic plan to foster their development. The IRFU is caught between trying to retain the best players in Ireland - at rapidly inflating salaries - and investing more in the grass roots.

Having said that their attitudes can be antediluvian: Many of the problems listed by Ruth O'Reilly could be sorted by better planning and more respectful attitudes, neither of which cost cash. With women increasingly making up a larger part of rugby's membership, playing and volunteer base, they have no choice but to spread the love. A major strategic overhaul is required.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Aug 26th, 2017 at 02:25:50 PM EST
Women's soccer was attracting crowds of 60,000 before it was banned in 1921, so there is no reason why women's rugby couldn't rival mens for participation, crowds, and yes, revenue streams in the years to come...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Aug 27th, 2017 at 11:13:28 AM EST
tbh tho', it seems very difficult for National Sport Federations predominatly built around the men's game to take women's sport seriously.

Even now, with considerable recent success, it's quite plain that the England women's football team are treated with a certain condescension.

The most prolific English striker, Eni Aluko, was left out of the most recent tournament for complaining about racism from the coaching team. And both the current and previous managers are widely believed to run the team on a personal favourites basis rather than competence. Aluko wasn't the only player surprisingly absent. Equally, the current England striker has only just risen to prominence in her 30s having been snubbed by the previous incimbent.

So, it seems that, for these Federations, the women's game is run as an amateurish after-thought to their major concern of earing large revenues (and large personal payments) from the men's game.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Aug 28th, 2017 at 04:48:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Exactly.  As an old teacher of mine was fond of telling us, "You are amateurs, but you should not be amateurish."  The players are amateurs; the management is amateurish.
by rifek on Wed Sep 6th, 2017 at 05:06:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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