Ireland have announced 43 centralised contracts will be provided to elite women’s players next season, as they look to improve on their fourth-place finish in the 2022 TikTok Women’s Six Nations.
Ireland’s last Championship triumph came in 2015, but they have endured some tougher times in recent years, which included not qualifying for the upcoming World Cup in New Zealand.
The new deal includes the contracts already in operation for Ireland’s Sevens programme.
An IRFU statement read: “To respect the importance of the upcoming test windows in Japan and the Sevens World Cup, the IRFU will discuss the details of the contracts with players before making further public pronouncements on these exciting developments.
“The contracts have been benchmarked internationally and will range up to €30,000 + match fees and bonuses.”
Meanwhile, Gillian McDarby has appointed as Ireland’s new head of women’s performance and pathways.
A former cyclist, McDarby was previously the facilities & operations manager at the IRFU’s High Performance Centre and a board member with Cycling Ireland
She will now be responsible for the development of the women’s game in Sevens and 15s, which includes growing the playing base of young girls getting into the sport.
McDarby said: “I have worked across several important areas in the game and believe there is a huge growth opportunity for the women’s game in Ireland and I am looking forward to working with all stakeholders to bring the women’s game to the next level.
“It is also pleasing that my appointment coincides with the formal announcement of contracts for up to 43 female players. This is a major step forward for women’s rugby in Ireland.
“Success in the women’s game will be based on sustainability: creating sustainable pathways within the competition structures, getting meaningful competition structures in place for both women and girls to access the game of rugby at the right entry points and continuing to develop competitive international teams in fifteens and sevens. That, to me, is success.
“This is an exciting time for the game and while much work has been done, there is always more to do.
“There are no overnight successes in sport, but I know that by working collectively with clubs, players, coaches, staff, and volunteers we can build an ever-evolving environment where young women and girls are supported to be the best they can be.”
IRFU chief executive Kevin Potts said: “Today’s announcement of the creation of up to 43 IRFU contracts for Women’s Players is a further strong signal of our intent to foster and grow the women’s game over the coming years and to ensure that our women’s players are provided with the best opportunities to compete at the highest levels of the game in the future.”