Ireland players show their distress after failing to qualify for this year's World Cup
Ireland’s failure to qualify for this year’s World Cup led to months of turmoil in the women’s game in the country

The Irish Rugby Football Union says it will offer 43 professional contracts to women’s players in the country’s 15s and sevens squads next season.

It will be the first time Irish 15s players are paid after previous pro deals for a number of sevens players.

The IRFU said that contracts for the women’s players would “range up to €30,000 plus match fees and bonuses”.

Last December, a group of past and present Irish women’s players said they had lost “all confidence” in the IRFU.

An independent report into Irish women’s rugby was later commissioned with the IRFU promising to implement the 30 recommendations and to plough an additional €1m into the women’s game – in addition to apologising for past failures.

Then director of women’s rugby Anthony Eddy stepped down from his role shortly after the unveiling of the report, with previous national 15s coach Adam Griggs also having exited as Greg McWilliams took charge of the side.

Disquiet about the governance of the women’s game in Ireland came to a head after the country’s shock failure last September to qualify for this year’s World Cup.

McDarby appointed to new women’s post

On Thursday, the IRFU also announced that Gillian McDarby had been appointed to a newly created head of women’s performance and pathways role.

“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,” said an IRFU statement.

“The contracts have been benchmarked internationally and will range up to €30,000 plus match fees and bonuses.”

The IRFU said McDarby would be responsible for “the development, delivery, and implementation of the approved strategic and operational direction of the women’s rugby performance programme for both XVs and Sevens”.

McDarby was on Cycling Ireland’s board of directors from 2017 to 2021 and has worked as the IRFU’s high performance centre facilities and operations manager for the last two years.

“I’m looking forward to working with all stakeholders to bring the women’s game to the next level,” said McDarby.

“It’s 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.”

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