Former Ireland international Louise Galvin says a long-term strategy for professional women's rugby has to be found, if Ireland are have any hope of getting back in touch with the best in the game.
Ireland take on France this weekend in the Women's Six Nations in association with Guinness, having trounced Wales 45-0 in their opening game of the competition.
However, despite getting off to such a good start, there are still fears that Ireland are a distance off standing toe-to-toe with England and France, whose players have semi-pro and professional contracts.
Louise Galvin - who was professionally contracted to the IRFU as a 7s international - told OTB AM that a long term strategy of professional and semi professional contracts is the only viable option for Ireland to be a major player on the international stage again.
"At the moment the girls are 'elite amateurs', they've put in an awful lot of time, and in fairness when they get access to the HP camp, everything from that point of view is spot on. But at the end of the day they have to go back to their day job, they're not getting that rest time and recovery," she said
"It is very difficult to look for extra money when you see people losing their jobs within the IRFU, I take that 100 percent to hand. But if the long term strategy and long term goal is that we want the Irish women's squad squad not only qualifying for World Cups, but competing for medals at World Cups, competing for Six Nations Championships then this has to be in the offing down the road," she added.
Louise Galvin | 'There has to be long term strategy'
However, Galvin says it's not just as simple as throwing money at the issue. detailing her own experiences as a professionally contracted 7s player, Galvin says the value of the contracts is more suited to players who are in the early stages of their careers.
She adds that the IRFU should take a leaf out of the book used by teams in England's Premier 15s competition, who supplement their basic contracts with private investment.
"It's a difficult conversation, I know from the 7s squad you're not on huge money at all - I'm not sure you'd even call is livable - and they tend to be a younger age profile, coming out of college, whereas wit your 15s players you're talking about paying mortgagaes, so there's a huge headache.
"If we want to be the best of the rest, fine, stay where we are, but if we actually really want to compete, and really want to grow the game. I know the IRFU are talking about trying to get more players playing the game, and that's the main point of their women's strategy, but a huge part of that is visibility of girls in the squad, performing and playing full time, then that becomes a goal for them to become that person someday.
There has to be some sort of long term strategy post-covid that we get off the ground and we get some sort of professionalism or semi professionalism. In the Premier 15s they use a lot of companies to try and support players in the English club scene, whether we look at that sort of structure, where the player is supported by a private company and then offering something back to that part of the company as well, as well as being on a baseline IRFU contract.
"There are lots of ways to look at it besides the IRFU just handing over a ball of money, but it has to come down the line of we want to win Six Nations championships and really compete at World Cups," she added.