Source: INPHO

Every Cloud…There is good rugby news to be found

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Beibhinn Parsons is the winner of the Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland women’s Player of the Year for the 2019-20 season

Madrid Rugby has posted an extensive list of matches to be played on the weekend of 23-24 January.

The FFR has done likewise. It plans to restart the Elite 1 programme this weekend with postponed matches from earlier rounds. The regular schedule to pick up next month. The French squad is busy training at Marcoussis. They have one eye on a return to their clubs for some real rugby.

The Spanish Federation (FER) has announced an important outcome of its ‘Women’s Leadership Academy’: 107 women have gained scholarships for their training as coaches and referees at club level – all part of its ‘Women in Rugby’ programme.

The Boks are meeting up in Stellenbosch at the start of an extended training programme that will last two-and-a-half months. Their senior coach Stan Raubenheimer has called up 24 players initially, but another 16 will join the throng in March. The group includes just four players with RWC experience, the captain Nolusindiso Booi, Tayla Kinsey, Zenay Jordaan and Asithandile Ntoyanto.

The USA Eagles XVs programme has been awarded a $50,000 grant by the Mark Cuban Foundation. Their All-In campaign is looking to reach $600,000 in all.

The town of Usme, south of Bogota in Colombia, has gained a junior women’s rugby club.

Back in December s squad of 32 Wallaroos met up at the AIS centre in Canberra for a 6-day training session, readying them for the RWC. A further 13 were listed but absent through injury. Like other competing nations they have been very short of rugby.

The provision of twice-weekly testing for AP 15s players in England will come as a huge relief to all concerned.

Some way to go yet

We must hope that these initiatives encourage other unions to reach agreement with their authorities to get rugby going again. Lynne Cantwell, the distinguished ex-Ireland international and Chair of Sport Ireland’s Women In Sport Committee. spoke to BBC Radio Ulster’s Sportsound Extra Time in the new year. She said the second postponement of the World Cup qualifiers could actually help the Irish cause. The players are all desperately short of game time. In the Six Nations they achieved their best results – three wins out of four – since the heady days of 2013-6 (including a Grand Slam and a defeat of the Black Ferns). But the hoped-for restart of the All Ireland League on 9 January had to be called off. The four provinces haven’t competed since 2019.

Ireland’s women, like their Scottish and Welsh counterparts, have to look on as their menfolk prepare for another Six Nations. Only those lucky enough to have chosen to play in England have been able to pull their boots on for the real thing.