New strategy to stem from Ulster’s Women’s Rugby Conference

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New strategy to stem from Ulster’s Women’s Rugby Conference

The IRFU (Ulster Branch) hosted a Women’s Rugby Conference on Saturday to form a strategic plan for the development of female rugby in Ulster.

The event at the Seagoe Hotel, Craigavon, brought together 45 key stakeholders from 12 different clubs, who participated in workshops facilitated by IRFU (Ulster Branch) staff.

Ireland captain Fiona Coghlan, who was named Irish Sports Council Sportswoman of the Year in 2013, delivered a keynote speech on her rise to the top of the women’s game, which culminated in a 6 Nations Grand Slam success in 2013.

IRFU Women’s Development Executive and current Ireland international, Nora Stapelton and BBC Sport’s Sara Orchard also attended as speakers.

The stakeholders discussed successes and challenges in the female game and shared ideas on how to best provide a well-resourced and robust infrastructure to support women’s rugby in the Province. Feedback and learnings from the conference will be used to produce an Ulster specific strategic plan to help grow the game at all levels.

During her keynote speech Coghlan paid tribute to the volunteers within the club game and urged those in attendance to build on the progress that has been made in recent years. “I wouldn’t have played for Ireland without volunteer coaches; they are so important. The Grand Slam came about after years of work, particularly by volunteers. Putting the structures in place now will help get more people involved and provide more opportunities,” she said.

IRFU Women’s Sub Committee Chairperson, Mary Quinn, was also quick to highlight the work of volunteers: “We need to empower people who have an interest in rugby and get them involved as a coach or volunteer. We also need to appreciate our volunteers and ensure they are happy and well mentored.”

Stapleton added: “This conference is so important and it’s given us a great opportunity to find out how people on the ground feel. There’s a mixture of players, coaches and administrators here and it’s important to get their feedback. I would like to see all four Provinces with a flourishing girls mini and youth scenes and thriving provincial and All Ireland Leagues.”

Since the Grand Slam success last March, Ulster Rugby has employed two dedicated Female Rugby Officers as a result of funding from the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure.

The female club game seen significant growth since then, with six new adult teams and seven new youth sections established. Schools participation has also risen; this season’s Ulster Girls Schools’ Cup had over 60 teams involved, the highest figure ever.

The development of female rugby has been made possible due to the generous support of the NI Executive and DCAL through the ‘Promoting Equality, Tackling Poverty and Social Exclusion through Sport’ programme.


Women’s Rugby Conference:
(l-r) Ireland captain Fiona Coghlan, Ulster Rugby’s Female Rugby Officers Zoe Templeton and Glenda Mellon and IRFU Women’s Development Executive Nora Stapleton are pictured at the IRFU (Ulster Branch) Women’s Rugby Conference held at the Seagoe Hotel on Saturday

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