"Women's rugby deserves better and he's not the man for the job" 11 months ago

"Women's rugby deserves better and he's not the man for the job"

"I know that is particularly harsh, but I've got nothing to lose now."

There was a time when Jenny Murphy would be seething over inadequacies within women's rugby in Ireland, but would bite her tongue. Not any more.

Advertisement

The Leinster star helped Ireland to a Grand Slam in 2013 and another Six Nations title in 2015, but would admit now that she kept her feelings on certain rugby matters to herself. Sure, the support and resources were not always there, but the squad bond was strong and they often punched above their weight.

The 2017 Women's World Cup proved too much. While some of the other top women's sides arranged warm-up games against each other, the IRFU fudged it. Preparations were poor and Ireland - having reached the semis in 2014 - failed to reach the cup knock-out stages.

A dejected Jenny Murphy with Ireland supporters after a World Cup loss to France at the UCD Bowl in Belfield. (Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile)
Advertisement

Two bad injuries in a row [knee and back] saw Murphy miss out on a lot of rugby in recent time, but she returned for Leinster this year and won the province's player of the year award.

She has not featured in Ireland's recent, failed 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign of the two November games against Japan and the USA. She is certainly good enough to represent her country again. In late November, she teamed up with old centre partner Sene Naoupu to star for the Barbarians at Twickenham.

The Kildare native has not ruled out playing in the green jersey again, but she will not be silent on what she sees as glaring issues in women's rugby here.

On the latest House of Rugby URC episode [LISTEN from 37:00 below], Jenny Murphy spoke from the heart about how the IRFU has not given the proper backing to women's rugby and how Anthony Eddy is fortunate to still be in his job.

Advertisement

Jenny Murphy on Anthony Eddy's "unacceptable" comments

Ahead of those two Ireland games against the USA and Japan, IRFU director of women's rugby Anthony Eddy riled many in the squad with comments he made during an RTÉ interview.

Advertisement

Three separate reviews were being carried out, this year, into women's rugby in Ireland and Eddy did fall back on one as a reason why he could not comment too much on the World Cup qualifying efforts, but he did comment, "I know the girls, the coaching staff, the girls themselves are disappointed not to have qualified and disappointed in their performances."

That line sparked a robust response from current Ireland hooker Cliodhna Moloney, who asked if it was 'slurry-spreading season', while both Jenny Murphy and Claire Molloy took the Australian to task on Twitter.

Asked about that Eddy interview by Greg O'Shea, Murphy responded, "I just think it was pretty poor. As a whole, speaking about a team like that is unacceptable.

"If you're a player involved in that squad, I can imagine you'd be deeply hurt. You want... everyone wants an Irish team to do well, regardless of whatever gender they are, and if this was any other business and if the director had such poor results, and had consistently not hit any of the KPIs [Key Performance Indicators] he had set out, he would be fired.

"I don't think he's the right man for the job. He hasn't been for a while, and I don't know why he is still around. I know that is particularly harsh, but I've got nothing to lose now, anyway, and there's plenty of other players that would say the same.

"I think women's rugby in this country deserves better, and he's not the man for the job."

Anthony Eddy

Advertisement

Jenny Murphy on fear of speaking out

Asked by Megan Williams, who has represented Leinster and Ireland in recent years, if some Irish players would be fearful of speaking out in case it affected their selection chances, Murphy said:

"100%. And you wouldn't. I remember being in camp and being afraid to say things - both in Sevens and 15s - because it could possibly be used against you.

"And there's that weight off your shoulders when you suddenly realise, 'Actually, I don't care'. Or if the consequences of saying something or not outweigh it. I'm obviously quite passionate about it, Megan, and I'd imagine you would be the same as well. There is a fear, because they have the power.

"Women's players in this country don't play for any financial incentive. You probably lose money playing for your country. That's, like, fine. It's not particularly good enough, but you go into that with your eyes open, and understanding that. But you do expect to be given support, in order for you to do well and achieve as best as you can. And I would really question if the team was given enough support in the lead-up to the World Cup qualifiers.

"And they were under-performing - the girls have put up their hands and said they had not played well - but they haven't been helped by the union either."

The Ireland Women's team are clearly going through a tough period at the moment, and there will be no quick fixes. Captain Ciara Griffin and experienced players Claire Molloy, Lindsay Peat, Hannah Tyrrell and Katie Fitzhenry have all stepped away from international rugby.

We saw some green shoots in the wins over the USA and Japan while Murphy has backed in-coming coach Greg McWilliams to make a positive impact.

What this set of women, and their coaching and backroom staff, need in the coming years is for the union to over-deliver on what has already been promised. The potential is there. People like Jenny Murphy see it each and every week.