|IRFU Women's Rugby Ambassador Fiona Coghlan(l) celebrates PIC via UTV Ireland|
Who would have thought this could happen just a few years ago when #wrugby (as it’s known on social media) was very much the Cinderella of the sport? I sound like a hoary old-timer but when you think of watching international matches with a handful of other people in pouring rain… and now this.
The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) also said this week international home games will be played in Dublin’s Donnybrook pitch instead of Ashbourne in Co Meath. The officials in Ashbourne deserve a huge round of applause for putting on international games at their club, for taking on that responsibility.
But you lose a certain sense of occasion travelling down a wee, dark road to a small club where a burger is the height of the entertainment. It’s just not international-level. And in February when the lights went out against France in the Six Nations even the IRFU realised this was no longer sustainable.
Listen back to a short radio package I made at the 2012 Ireland Vs Italy match in Ashbourne.
And think back to 2013 when the Women’s Six Nations was under threat of rationalisation as they say, right down to a 3-country competition. Former Irish captain Rosie Foley told me at the time: ‘‘I’d be sad to see it ending, I love it the way it is at the minute. It has been so good for Irish rugby; there has been a huge improvement. My own opinion is that it’s fine now, you have to play against better opponents. Italy are where we were five years ago and they need good opponents, they’re improving.”
Thankfully that didn’t happen. And with Sevens rugby in for Rio2016, women’s rugby is very much on the up.
A shout-out needed here to Ali Donnelly founder of the #wrugby site Scrum Queens, and to French site Sportiva-Infos. Without the publicity and the sense of community those sites and others create women might not be taking up rugby in numbers high enough to force all this attention.