THOUGH THE NEW coach and performance director set the clock ticking long ago, the countdown to the next Women’s Rugby World Cup start for the majority of the public yesterday.
The announcement that Ireland would host the 2017 edition of the tournament was, of course, warmly welcomed by all connected to the game. However, one major focus for head coach Tom Tierney and ambassador Fiona Coghlan has not changed, the foot is still down in the drive for recruitment.
Tierney often uses the phrase ‘ low training age’ to refer to the sizable portion of women currently playing top class rugby who came to the game late. For some, it was as late as their 20s. So it’s still not too late for the right athlete to change codes and potentially earn herself a World Cup berth.
“In the last couple of years, there have been girls taking up [rugby] and, within a year or two if they have potential, they can get up to international standard,” says Coghlan, who spent her early years playing gaelic football before captaining Ireland to a Grand Slam in 2013.
“We’d welcome anyone into the game. If it’s to play a Rugby World Cup in two years’ time and if they’re good enough, then best of luck to them. It’d be great to see them out there.”
She added: “I came from a gaelic football background and just picked it up by chance in college.
“It wasn’t until I played my first game that I realised this is the sport for me, it’s a pity I hadn’t been playing it all these years, how good I could have been or just the joy of playing an extra couple of years.”
The growth in popularity of the game in recent years has undoubtedly played a massive role in helping Ireland to land the major tournament. Four years ago, it would certainly be much more difficult to argue that Irish rugby fans would flock to see their team face the world’s elite teams.
With two Six Nations crowns and a win over the Black Ferns to boast in the last three seasons though, the immediate past is as bright as the future.
“The growth of the game was a huge part of it. Everything’s been going in the right direction for something this big. So thankfully we got there,” says Coghlan with an exhale in a packed conference room in a Ballsbridge hotel.
“Hopefully it will bring more numbers in to the game. I’ve no doubt the Irish public will get behind the tournament as a whole and bring it to a whole new level.
“I’d love to see rugby grow to being a sport of choice for girls. I think it’s well on the way to going there and something like this can bring it along a bit more.”
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