IRUPA is no more. From now on the organisation representing professional rugby players in Ireland will be known as ‘Rugby Players Ireland’.
The stated vision for the player representative organisation is to make Ireland the best place in the world to play the game – on and off the pitch.
The organisation represents all professional players in the game, men and women. Jenny Murphy and Paula McGloughlin were to the fore yesterday, as representatives of the Sevens team and while the team playing in this year’s World Cup in Dublin and Belfast remains for the most part amateur, Rugby Players ireland feels that its role is a positive for all players in the game, regardless of whether they can formally become members.
That differentiation between professional and amateur is echoed in the Gaelic Players Association between inter county and club players. It is a way in which the work these organisations do can be painted as elitist but the reality is that they have to draw a line over who they can offer a particular suite of services to.
It does not mean that they are exclusive in terms of the benefit they bring to the wider family of players in their respective games.
Rugby Players Ireland Chairman Rob Kearney unveiled the new name and vision founded on their belief of the important role Ireland’s players have as key stakeholders in developing rugby in this country.
Kearney was joined by a strong stable of international and provincial players including representatives from all four provinces.
Ulster winger Andrew Trimble, Leinster’s Johnny Sexton and Josh Van der Flier, Rugby Players Ireland Executive board member and Connacht prop, Ronan Loughney, ex-Munster prop, Marcus Horan and Irish Women’s captain Paula Fitzpatrick as well as IRFU Chief Executive, Philip Browne were amongst the key Irish rugby stakeholders in attendance.
First established in 2001 following discussions between Donal Spring, Peter McKenna, Liam Toland and the IRFU, the players association has consistently evolved and is now seen as one of the world’s leading player representative organisations.
The association has chosen now to focus in on three themes of representation, development and engagement.
It sees its role as working alongside Rugby authorities for the most part for the betterment of the game though they are also not afraid to speak up and put player rights first when needed.
An example to emerge yesterday was a discussion over the shortening of the Six Nations window from seven to five weeks, pushed by leading clubs in England and France but opposed on recovery and welfare grounds by the players.
IRUPA through the years has been building a world class off-field player development programme.
It has also been involved in the negotiation of a player agreement with the IRFU, the securing of the tax back for professional rugby players to assist with the retention and recruitment of players and the reality that 80% of players over the age of thirty one have a degree while 76% of Academy players are in third level education.
A highlight last year was the launch of the Tackle Your Feelings programme which focuses on mental wellbeing within the sport.
“Rugby is part of the fabric of Irish society,” said Minister of Sport Patrick O’Donovan.
“The players are held in high regard by all and have brought so much success and provided moments of inspiration over the last 15 years. We have been lucky in Ireland to be able to retain so much of our rugby talent in the country where people can watch them on a weekly basis. Working to make Ireland the best place in the world to play rugby will ensure that this remains the case and we are hugely supportive of the ambition announced by Rugby Players Ireland today.”
Speaking at the annoucement, Chairman Rob Kearney, stated that the name change to Rugby Players Ireland is reflective of the acheivements of the organisations to date, the evolution of rugby in Ireland over the last 15 years and the ambition of the players to contribute to the on-going development of the game into the future:
“As players we strive daily to be the best and to see our clubs and country excel on the national, european and world stage. We are proud of our Irish heritage and want to ensure that the playing environment both on and off the field is conducive both to keeping and attracting the very best talent and ensuring that playing rugby in Ireland is a positve experience for all professional players. It is an exciting time to be part of Rugby Players Ireland which, has made considerable contribution to player welfare particulalry, through the development of a world class player development programme. Rugby Players Ireland, not only ensures that the voice of the players is heard but also that our collective experience contributes to the on-going development of rugby in Ireland.”