The end of this 2022-2023 season was tough for Spain in both sevens and XV, but José Antonio Barrio – now a director of the FER – is confident about the future.
Last June the Spain’s sevens, under Iggy Martín, lost any chance of returning to the Olympics after losing in the quarterfinals to the lower ranked in the qualifying tournament in Krakow, Poland. Martin’s subsequent departure added to the loss of Patricia García and Pedro de Matías in three months.
The XVs team also missed its chance to play in WXV2 after losing the playoff with Italy following on from two defeats to Japan.
Following these reversals Spanish sports magazine Relevo spoke to , José Antonio Barrio Yunque, former head coach of both Spain’s XV and the sevens teams, including Spain’s appearance at Rio 2016.
How would you assess the current state of women's rugby? What score would you give it?
It is a time of change and we need to take advantage of it. World Rugby will invest in American rugby and the women's project in the coming years. To maintain the objective of our two teams we had to rely on two key points. The first of them, increase the number of international players (for example divide the 7s and XV into two squads) and the second, provide them with competition. In the last year, we have had more test matches than in a World Cup. In the sevens, short-term decisions have been made with which we have not given the results we wanted.
This year it wasn't as important to win as it is next year.
Why weren't the sevens players called up for the important vs Italy match?
In the end, winning or losing that match was not so important for the future project. The World Cup goal is to win the European playoff next year. It was more important to strengthen and test that group at international level than to win the game itself.
We thought about the medium term and the core of players that we will need if we want to survive in both categories.
The girls proved that what they are capable of by reaching the final in the next tournament.
Krakow was one of the hardest things I've experienced on a rugby field. In Hamburg, after the stick, Alberto gave them peace of mind and it worked.
In Krakow there was an approach that I still do not understand. In that quarterfinal match you don't have to get into trouble that, in terms of lineup and match proposal, we got in.
So, did the tactical approach of Iggy Martín vs Czech Republic influence his non-renewal as coach?
We got into a totally unnecessary diffculties. In three months we put in all the means, with the boys it went well and with the girls, no. With regard to the management of the match against the Czech Republic we did not find any explanation and we lost confidence.
Did any sevens player refuse to play for the XV in the match against Italy?
No. We don't force any player to go. We demand that they be consistent. If they decide not to go with any of the national teams, they will not go with that selection.
Will Alberto Socías continue in the long term with the sevens or will a new HC be sought in the short medium term?
We are looking at all options. Alberto will remain the director of the seven. For the girls of the seven we are evaluating different profiles.
We have lost a very important funding of approximately €450,000. The FER has been consistent and coherent and has not dropped the women's sevens project.
In the XV do you think we will soon have a team that beats teams like Wales, Scotland ... as we did not so long ago.
Very soon. This year, we could have beaten the USA, Japan and Italy. Before this, with only three minor games, the gap was getting bigger and bigger. It is possible that there will be contracts for the XV for the first time in history and there will be more competition.
We have to be calm, know where we want to go and have a bit of luck. Then we win.
There's a new programme for women's rugby emerging, isn't there?
There are two more concrete programs, with two franchises that will compete with Italy. U23 players and even some senior players who do not have so many international matches.
There is already a kind of Celtic league (Welsh, Irish and Scottish). We hope that in 2025 perhas combine the Latin franchises and Celtic franchises.
Next clear objective: with the XV to qualify for the 2025 World Cup, right?
That is the emerging project. We are aiming to put three high performance centres in Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia to work at full capacity.
Access to the World Cup can be achieved through the European Championship (via a playoff) or WXV.