"Lots of it is historic" - Greg McWilliams defends IRFU after damning report about women's rugby
"What happened previously, you know, I can’t stop people talking about."
Greg McWilliams is currently trying to get a squad desperately short of caps, confidence and positives to focus on a vital game away to Italy, this weekend.
For much of his Thursday press briefing, though, he found himself having to defend the union that hired him, just under 18 months ago, from claims of sexism and 'old boys club' culture.
The night before McWilliams named his match-day squad for the Italy game, The Telegraph ran a special report by Fiona Tomas that led with stories of players being denied protein, not being consulted on match gear changes, left out of team news emails and of a senior IRFU member declaring, "Who gives a f**k about women's rugby" at a presidential dinner, in March.
There was also concern raised over the IRFU going to senior players with 'full-time or nothing' contract offers, some of which were for only €15,000 a year, with the proviso that they must be based in Dublin. That approach, as well as other factors, have led to the current Ireland squad being woefully short of experienced internationals.
It has not helped that the priority for women's rugby appears to by the Sevens game and qualification for the 2024 Olympics. Ireland are within one good performance, at the Toulouse Sevens, from Olympics qualification but quality players such as Beibhinn Parsons, Amee Leigh Murphy Crowe and Stacey Flood have been sent to play Sevens, missing the current Six Nations. Ireland are currently on 0 points after heavy losses to Wales and France.
Cliodhna Moloney - one of Ireland's best players - has not featured for Ireland since Greg McWilliams took over. She was openly critical of former IRFU director of women's rugby, Anthony Eddy.
Asked about the omission of Moloney, last year, IRFU chief executive Kevin Potts said McWilliams had selected his squad based on form and in no way was the Galway native dropped due to past criticism of the now-departed Eddy.
Greg McWilliams speaks up for IRFU
At the Ireland press briefing ahead of the game against Italy, Greg McWilliams sought to distance himself to past goings-on involving how women's rugby was dealt with, while stressing that positive changes have been taking place.
McWilliams said he had read the Telegraph article and that 'lots of it was historic'. He added:
'When I met [IRFU performance director] David Nucifora in 2021 - I started December 1 - he outlined a plan and everything that we talked about, we’re on track and that’s all we can focus on. I was the only full-time staff member on 1st of December.
"We now have seven full-time staff members and eight contractors who come into us for competition week, we’ve eight new employments in our pathways and centres of excellence so there’s been a massive growth in that time.
"To be honest with you, talking about things historically, we can’t control, we can’t control external noise, we can control what we can do and it’s a good lesson, a really good lesson for these young players, not just in rugby but in life, that if you trust in the process of what you are doing and you’ve got good people around you."
According to The Telegraph, the IRFU stated, "We have seen consistent growth in participation of women and girls, testament to the work going on across the country to attract more females to the game.
"The IRFU has a dedicated Women's Committee and Women's Advisory Group, who are tasked with overseeing the growth of participation by women and girls in the game."
The IRFU took this time to point out that it has employed a head of women's performance and a head of equity, diversity and inclusivity. It also said that it wants to have 40% female representation on its committee by the end of this year. You can read the full investigation here.