Ireland centre Jenny Murphy spoke about the new Ireland U20s squad that has been started by Rugby Academy Ireland as opposed to the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) on Friday’s OTB AM.
Murphy was part of the first Irish national team to beat New Zealand in the 2014 Rugby World Cup.
Alongside other former internationals Fiona Hayes and Alison Miller, Murphy has joined the coaching staff of the first U20 women’s squad in Ireland.
“Ireland are the only Six Nations side that doesn’t have an under 20 women’s team,” Murphy said.
“There is a gap there, it needs to be filled, and Rugby Academy Ireland were like, ‘right, let’s go ahead, let’s do it.’
“There is a gulf there, there is a huge drop off rate for players that are going from underage, or under 18 to senior level.
“We want to keep those players involved and stay in the game, so we’re going to give this a crack and see how we get on.”
Rugby Academy Ireland instead of IRFU
It would be expected that the IRFU would be the organisation to set up the U20s team, however there seemed to be no plans to do so.
Rugby Academy Ireland are an independent rugby academy which was founded by former Springbok Dan van Zyl and former Sri Lanka international coach Johan Taylor.
According to their mission statement, the academy is focused on helping aspiring players enhance their rugby and lifestyle skills, through practical training, equipping students with an education and the qualifications needed to begin a career in professional rugby.
We are delighted to launch our Women's u20 representative team!
With Head Coach @fihayes27, Backs Coach @2021awaits
and Skills Coach @jennymurphy045.
Apply to be a part of the trial on Thursday 29th of October, 10am in Naas 🙌https://t.co/vOhDHK3Tgy@HerSportDotIE pic.twitter.com/r1ew0tkhgY
— Rugby Academy Ireland (@academy_ireland) October 1, 2020
The gap between underage and senior rugby for women needed to be filled, and so Murphy along with her fellow coaches and Rugby Academy Ireland decided to fill it themselves.
“I’m not too sure [why the IRFU hasn’t done it],” Murphy said.
“It is a pity, I think it is a great opportunity, but women’s rugby in this country has been in this position before.
“The women’s team weren’t always under the branch of the IRFU, they were on their own for a while.
“So, instead of just waiting around and asking, we decided to just do it ourselves.”
The goal of the new team is to form a pathway from school and club rugby into senior international and inter-pro rugby.
“Hopefully in the future they will come on board and something will be done for young adults that want to progress on through pathways,” Murphy said.
“There is no real clear pathways for a women’s player in this country.
“If you’re a boy and you go online, and you look up your pathways you can clearly see how to get from minis to an international jersey.
“You can see the clear pathways.
“With girls it is a little bit… there is gaps there which is a pity because we’ve got some really talented players here.”
Becoming the next international
Murphy hopes that through developing the Ireland U20s team and training the young athletes that girls will see themselves filling in the roles of current Irish internationals.
“We are hoping that this is something that can really keep girls in the game, have a bit of fun, learn something as well and progress on to the next level,” Murphy said.
“You want any kid, whether it be male or female, when they’re picking up a rugby ball for the first time and they fall in love with the game to see a very clear way of like: ‘Oh, this is how I could be the next Kathryn Dane or the next Johnny Sexton.’
“There should be a limited amount of obstacles for that player to get to where they want to go.
“Obviously you’ve got [to have] hard work and talent to get to that level, but the structures should be there in order for you to be able to do that.”
Murphy does not believe that the IRFU have done enough to promote and support the women’s game.
She hope that the new U20s team will push the national union to take women’s rugby more seriously.
“The IRFU needs to pull up their socks a little bit,” Murphy said.
“This isn’t just for the underage [rugby]; I think they can do better with the women’s game both national and at grassroots [level].”