You could hear the request over the referee’s microphone during Ireland’s game against France in the women’s Six Nations on Saturday.
The pride, girl, the pride,” yelled one of the Ireland players to her team-mates as they prepared for another scrum largely decimated by the French in Toulouse.
The call for pride was one of stubborn endurance, with the clock ticking towards a 40-5 loss that was declared. But as much as rugby can be an emotional game, words can only get you so far.
It is the first time in 15 years that Ireland have lost their opening two games of the Women’s Six Nations. In 2007 Ireland lost 10-5 to Wales in Cardiff and 10-13 to France a week later at St Mary’s College RFC.
After all, the Irish amateur players had a week’s rest before the third round and appropriately at least all their opponents were in the same situation and also amateurs.
There’s nothing amateur about playing in the current version of the Women’s Six Nations – from new title sponsorship to unprecedented mainstream TV coverage and Wales becoming the latest shining example of what a small investment can make in women’s football can.
A summary: Wales had no wins in their three Six Nations games last year as an amateur player.
This year, after professional and retainer contracts were awarded and their line-up revised, Wales are now two wins from two. The bottom line never lies.
Of course, a young Irish team has to take responsibility for their mistakes in this performance against a French team with professional players.
But the Irish model is battling an ever-increasing tide. Half of the Irish team that started against France has contracts with Sevens, but the players in the XVs are amateurs.
The new format of playing over three consecutive weekends was not designed for Ireland’s amateur players – some of whom have to work between rounds.
This week, the Irish players will only arrive at the Cork camp on Thursday ahead of Sunday’s third round match against Italy at Musgrave Park. Thursday!
For a team that needs tremendous work on the elementary parts of their game like scrum and line out, for a team that made 27 handling errors against France, for a team that just needs to spend time training together and for the coaches to do that in the Being able to do their job personally with the players, this just isn’t enough time to reach their full potential.
When recommendations were released last month from the review of Ireland’s failed World Cup qualifying campaign, recommendation number 29 out of 30 was to “consider introducing hybrid or retainer contracts for the XV players to deal with physical, emotional, to cope with time and other pressures”. .
Kevin Potts, CEO of IRFU said: “Everything in the review is under serious scrutiny. We would love to have our new Head of Women’s Benefits on board to start looking into this whole area. We look forward to hearing recommendations from him or her on this subject over the coming months.”
Next year is a game-changer for international women’s football with the launch of the new WXV competition, set to be played in an annual global window running from September to October (excluding World Cup years).
Thus, for the first time, Irish players have two formal international windows to play in (the few November Tests in the past have all been played at home, not abroad).
This will put even more pressure on amateur players, a point raised by former Ireland captain Claire Molloy last Thursday The left wing Podcast: “I think there’s going to have to come a point where we can’t rely on a group of signed sevens players to bolster us and make those commitments with young students. We have to try and support the slightly older player, the professional player with a career, and how can we get him to play his best rugby.”
Let’s take Linda Djougang’s example. She told that Irish Independent last week that she is not getting a salary from her club ASM Romagnat, which she joined for the season after quitting her job as a nurse.
Nobody should have to lose revenue or draw on their savings to become a better player for Ireland.
She should be given a retainer contract by the IRFU because ultimately the Irish side benefit from players trying to improve. This is just a small example of how contracts might work because the use of players is not taken for granted or is still not rewarded by the union.
We know that investments must flow into the base. But the Six Nations is also the showcase. And seeing the results of the uneven playing field between Ireland’s XVs players and their professional opponents isn’t a good selling point. Pride will only get players so far.
https://www.independent.ie/sport/rugby/international-rugby/pride-in-the-jersey-will-only-take-ireland-so-far-when-players-are-left-on-uneven-field-41516996.html Sinéad Kissane: “Pride in the kit will only get Ireland so far if players are left behind on uneven ground”