herald

Monday 11 December 2017

Think the rugby boys had it bad in Paris? Well... look at what the women's team went through

IRELAND'S female rugby squad trekked an excruciating 800km journey on an overnight train before playing their Six Nations match..



The women's squad were put under serious strain as they were forced to travel from Paris to the rugby grounds of Pau, on the border with Spain in southern France, in less than 24 hours.

While thousands of Irish fans were hugely disappointed when the men's fixture was cancelled on Saturday, the IRFU said that it is "extremely distressed" at the difficulties experienced by the Ireland women's team ahead of their Six Nations game.

The team left Dublin for Paris on Friday afternoon but once they arrived in the French capital, they ran into traffic and missed their connecting train.

They then had to book an overnight train to make the 796km trip to Pau.

Former Ireland player Jeannette Feighery slammed the treatment of the former side.

"As a recent former player with the team, I have first-hand experience of the inequalities experienced," she said.

"However, a brief synopsis of the weekend brings things into sharp focus and makes my experiences pale in comparison.

"After three hours'(!) sleep, the girls had to have pre-match meals, meetings and get ready to play.

"The Irish ladies are constantly facing battles in terms of equality."

The female side are not professional and give of their time to represent their country.

The IRFU said that they took this into account when considering travel plans.

"We felt it would be too great a time for them to take off from their daily lives by asking them to travel a day earlier and in fact the only possible flight option would see them having to travel on Wednesday," they told the Herald.

The IRFU said that they raised concerns about the location of the game when the fixtures were announced in September.

"The protocol for Six Nations games dictates that the match should be in a location no more that 90 minutes travel from an airport with direct scheduled flights, which was patently not the case," they said.

"The travel difficulties were also accen-tuated by the fact that the FFR had to change the kick-off time from 6.30pm to 3.30pm due to worries over weather.

"All options were explored, but it was felt the best one was to take a direct flight to Paris and transfer by train from Paris to Pau with a total scheduled travel time of 10 hours.

"The team arrived in Pau at 7am and while a request was made to the FFR (the French rugby union) to delay the game to allow further time for the squad to recuperate, this was declined and the team prepared and played a fabulous game despite the circumstances."

But Ms Feighery dismissed the suggestion that the location of the match was wrong -- and said that the 11,000-strong crowd "in the heart of rugby land in France is completely justified".

"The IRFU is accountable for making sure that the team arrive in time and have ample preparation, regardless of location," she said.

Although they put up a brave battle, the side lost out to France with a score of 8-7.

The representative for IRFU said they are "fully reviewing the travel procedures" and emphasised the importance of women's rugby.

"Since women's rugby became integrated with the IRFU in 2004, the annual budget purely for the senior Ireland Women's team has been increased from €30,000 to €230,000, reflecting the intention of the IRFU to fully support the Women's team," he said.

clairemurphy@herald.ie

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