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Girls Rugby “Has Grown Massively” In The Province

19th May 2023 By The Editor

Girls Rugby “Has Grown Massively” In The Province

Bank of Ireland Munster Clubs Girls U18 Cup Final, Thomond Park, Limerick 7/4/2023 Ennis-Kilrush vs Carrick-Thurles Carrick-Thurles' Aoife Fleming, Kerry McCormack, Chiara Calvetti and Ciara Fleming celebrate after the game Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ben Brady

It has been another busy season for girls rugby in the province.

With the domestic season now finished, the different summer programmes will be the focus over the next few months.

Currently, around 50 players are representing Munster at the IRFU U16 & U18 Girls Sevens Interprovincial Series in Dublin while there will be a programme for U17 and U18 players this summer with an U18 Interpro series taking place at the end of the summer.

Looking back on the season from a participation perspective, Women’s Development Officer Ken Imbusch said they put a big emphasis on getting rugby into new schools throughout the province.

Sheila Ni Laoire Nic Aodh of Coláiste Íde Dingle in this season’s Munster Schools Girls Junior Cup final

“We put extra focus this year on developing the schools game with participation numbers. That grew massively, it actually exploded in terms of the amount of schools, not only in our emerging schools programme for the first time but into the Schools Cup.”

This season saw the second year of the Munster Schools Girls Senior and Junior Cups take place with 14 matches across both competitions, an increase on its inaugural year.

The work that has been undertaken with the schools is already paying dividends with a number of players coming through that pathway who have gone on to represent Munster this season.

“The Sevens Interpros are ongoing at the moment, it’s the second weekend of it. That’s 16s and 18s but we have eight girls that we have identified just through schools rugby taking part in that.”

This season saw the number of Regional Development Squads (RDS) increase from two to four. This allowed the net to be cast even wider for players in all regions of the province.

Munster’s Jessie Phelan makes a break to score a try during Day 1 of the IRFU U16 & U18 Girls Sevens Interpro Series last weekend

“That gave us a start point of over 120 girls across 16s and 18s in the four regions. We got that up and going and ran that right up until December where we held some trial games and off the back of that, just reduced the number.”

Imbusch added: “We broke our 120 girls initially down into two training centres, one north and one south.

“Off the back of that we played a series of trials and where we are now with 58 girls in the Sevens programme in 16s and 18s. And 28 girls taking part in the front-five programme.”

Players in the Regional Development Squads also enjoy the benefit of position-specific training so that they can further hone their skills depending on where they play on the pitch.

The aim for next season is to educate club coaches on position-specific training so that all players can reap the rewards.

“It kicked in after Christmas. We’ve already done, in preparation for girls going up to Irish selection, we ran some workshops to support them. We drafted in our own girls.

“We did some front-five stuff, mostly front-row stuff. We did other position-specific stuff around kicking and back-three workshops. They were done with our own staff. They were done with Ben Swindlehurst, Eugene McCarthy, all of those development officers.”

A view of a recent front-five programme session with assistance from John Hayes. Photo Credit: Rosemary Dillon

Imbusch can see the work put in over the last number of seasons paying off particularly when he compares the number of players available for representative squads previously to what is currently there.

“We just have so many girls now that we can bring into programmes. If I go back to my very first year, four or five years ago, we only had a Munster 18s squad and we had only identified 56 girls across the province.

“It has grown massively. The work that’s being done in the clubs, the work that’s being done through the CCRO (Club Community Rugby Officer) and WDO (Women’s Development Officer) programmes supporting that.

“We see more players, we see more players of quality because they’re playing the game longer and from a younger age. We’re delighted to where it’s moving to and really excited about always playing more high-level games, it brings us on a bit more.”

There is also strong representation from Munster in the Women’s National Talent Squad which is another reflection on the good work that has taken place in the province over the last number of years.

And Imbusch is also keen to highlight the importance of Niamh Briggs being recently appointed as Pathway Talent Coach for Munster.

Ciara Fleming and Aoife Fleming, pictured with Women’s Development Officer Ken Imbusch, celebrate after Carrick-Thurles won the Munster U18 Girls Cup final earlier this season

“All of the players have played age-grade representative rugby for Munster. Some have played senior representative rugby but they are on this pathway for a reason. What we see is the players with the highest potential to put on green shirts.

“The great thing about this is the recent appointment of Niamh Briggs to support their next-level development on behalf of the IRFU.”

Looking ahead to the summer, Imbusch is excited about getting the U18 and U17 squads together for their respective programmes which will further enhance the players’ development.

“The big thing there is around education and getting these girls to learn the Munster way, learning the Munster ways of training, what’s expected of them and again, exposing them to a higher level of coaching and learning at a younger age.”

For more information on getting girls rugby set up in your club or school, please contact Women’s Development Officers Ken Imbusch kenimbusch@munsterrugby.ie and Willie Shubart willieshubart@munsterrugby.ie


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