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Irish players vent anger towards union

Following a round of club protests yesterday, in which numerous Irish players took part, has spoken to several players over the weekend, most of whom are demanding answers from the IRFU over the strategy and direction of the 15s game at all levels in Ireland.

The IRFU's decision to last week advertise it's national XV women's head coach role as "casual" for a six month period without discussing it with the players has been a PR disaster, with the ad acting as a catalyst among clubs and players who are angry at what they consider to be poor treatment from the IRFU of its test team and players and its club game.

Club players were unimpressed with comments from Ireland's performance director David Nucifora recently where he criticised the women's club game in Ireland, pulling out some the lopsided results to emphasise the problems in the game. While clubs agree there are issues, they argue that these problems have existed for years and nothing has been done to address them. 

The club protest at the weekend involved players from women's and men's team wearing the word "legacy" on wrist bands taking aim at the IRFU's use of the word throughout it's World Cup promotion. 

One senior player who spoke to Scrumqueens did not wish to be named given the sensitivity of issues, but lambasted the union for it's poor handling and decision making. 

"Communication with the IRFU has been a long standing problem right across the board, "she said. 

"We've fed that back plenty of times but there seems to be no sort of resolution to it. Information isn't shared and the way they advertised the coaching role is frankly just very naive considering the issues we had back in March when players were pulled out of the 15s squad to play 7s in the middle of the World Cup. That was a signifiant issue for the 15s players and no lessons have been learned. Its insulting. 

"When we ask questions we don't get answers. The seem to answer fundamental questions through issuing press releases rather than actually talking to us. The players understand its a 7s year and there was likely to be more focus on that so if the communication had been handled better we probably wouldn't be where we are today. "

Other players we have spoken to have lamented the lack of direction for the 15s game, with another adding. 

"We don't know what the direction, targets and strategy for the 15s game is. We are now in a position where we need to quality for the next World Cup, which is not ideal, and we're up against improving 6 Nations sides. We're not moving forwards and the springboard from a World Cup, which despite the results for us, gave us some fantastic support and interest, is being wasted.

"The World Cup was amazing. It felt like the public really warmed to us, even when we lost games and we had a chance at some momentum. The response instead from the IRFU has been hapless."

Players are also angry that instead of using the post World Cup months to prepare for the 6 Nations and make needed improvements from the World Cup, they have not been given a calendar for the coming months and do not start their strength and conditioning programme till later this year. 

"We've had feedback from the union recently about the fact that we are not athletic enough are even more frustrating when we were told that our S&C programme wouldn't begin till November.  While other teams are playing test rugby in the Autumn, we are just working on our own, with no coach, no games and no dates. "

The support for the club game was also widely criticised by players over the weekend, especially given recent comments from the union 

"The comments about the quality of the club game are especially frustrating, because nothing seems to be done about it and the IRFU dont seem to take too much interest in the AIL. In fact there are often really unhelpful clashes that actually make the AIL even less competitive when teams lose all their Irish players on the same rounds as camps. It's all very well to point out the problem but where are the solutions? It shouldn't be up to players to find these."

Other comments given to by capped Irish players

"Promoting the World Cup had partly based around the legacy it was going to produce but it seems as if they haven't thought at all about it beyond that. The players don't want to spend their time organising protests and suggesting direction, but it doesn't seem like there is any plan at the top."

"We need to see a strategy that grows and develops the game - a sustainable blue print for underage, club, province and international level. How do we attract better coaches? How do we ensure players stay playing. How do we increase the coverage for our international side? These are all questions that the union should be tackling and communicating."

"Having a part time coach is not progressive. Our 15s coach should be our 15s coach - with no in between and no other distraction."

"What is their long term plan? The players have not been enlightened. When do they start investing in grassroots? We had a round of U18 Interprovincials recently which had lots of talent on show but there was absolutely no-one from the IRFU watching. These girls are our future and nobody bothered to come and see them."

"I don't know what the strategy is for developing Irish players. For 7s. falling back on different codes to convert players isn't sustainable - they need to invest in underage rugby too. Everyone wants to see the grassroots game develop and we have no idea what they are doing."