Sportswomen 2022: Stacey Flood – ‘To have professional contracts for women rugby players is a big step forward’

Irish rugby player is glad to have her name signed on the dotted line for a IRFU contract

There is an Irish way to ask a question.

No one is quite blunt enough to come out and ask you how much the new IRFU contracts are worth and whether the figures that have been touted about are accurate.

The query would be a little more indirect in phrasing but when everything is stripped away there is still a fascination with discovering the bottom line, those juicy numbers.

So, has life changed after becoming a contracted player? I can safely say that I am not house hunting on the Cote d’Azur. My case is just a little bit different in that I have been a contracted Sevens player for the past seven years.


The money has gone up throughout that time, making the biggest jump this year with the terms and conditions changing to incorporate XVs and Sevens contracts in one bracket.

To have professional contracts for women rugby players is a big step forward for Irish rugby and I think it is heading in the right direction. Nothing is perfect from the outset and that should be reflected in the tweaks and improvements that will be required year on year.

Personally, I don’t think money is what makes you a professional player or team. I believe professionalism is driven through standards off and on field, living by team values and being a full-time athlete.

Anthony Eddy came to Irish Rugby in 2015 and really transformed the Sevens programme into a professional set-up. The standards he set out for the team may not have made sense then but the outcome of what he implemented is really shining through more and more in what have done and continue to achieve.

Obviously being able to give more time to rugby and being a full-time athlete is so beneficial and these contracts help that lifestyle, so I think it is really positive. I’m glad to have signed my name on the dotted line.

It makes it a viable option for some people to have as an initial career path in life, but everyone’s case and circumstances are different and it’s not a one size fits all in terms of individual requirements, especially for those relocating to Dublin.

I also work part-time and am very lucky to have an employer that allows me to do that with maximum flexibility. Deep Pool Financial Solutions have backed my working and rugby ability and I think for me having something outside of rugby really helps me shift focus when needed.

I have to plan for life after rugby because I can’t play forever, something that the young ones in the squad frequently remind me of, and my ‘crusty dusty’ status.

Sun and a session have a slightly different meaning to the Ireland Women’s Sevens team than it would say for those who rock up to the Dubai leg of the World Series; a festival of fun in the middle of the desert that attracts a sizeable crowd of partygoers.

It’s the beginning of a very intense year on the World Series for our squad as we and 12 other teams look to qualify for the pinnacle of sport, the Olympics. This can be done by finishing in the top four in the standings in the series after seven tournaments in both the men’s and women’s disciplines.

We were pleasantly surprised to discover that we had been upgraded to business class on our eight-hour flight to Dubai as Emirates sponsor the tournament. We were living the ‘Boujee’ lifestyle, much to the delight of some first timers. It was a night flight, so we were able to get some sleep; little things matter.

We arrived on Monday, had a walk through and then two further training sessions in the hot, humid desert with the greenest grass pitches you have ever seen. They looked like they were painted. We beat Spain, Japan and Fiji winning all three pool matches for the first time in Dubai but the highs of day one were replaced by the disappointment when we lost the cup quarter-final 5-0 to the USA.

A victory over GB was followed by a defeat to Fiji, so we ended the tournament in sixth place. It’s going to be a long season so sometimes you must take the tough days and learn from them. Reflecting on Dubai I really enjoy it as a tournament, it’s a one of a kind, and if I was going to be a spectator at an event it would probably be this one.

The number of games going on throughout the day, with the Invitational Sevens tournament too, is lethal, while you also have netball, cricket and CrossFit competitions running alongside. DJs and beer tents, it’s not hard to find a party.

My parents came out and really enjoyed the entire experience, not knowing what to expect. Tournament days for us are tough to describe. It’s an emotional rollercoaster, the hardship you go through on both days is what I feel Sevens is about.

Three games a day, motivating yourself, decompressing, knowing the details for each different team we will play, hydration, nutrition, getting your body right, staying in good spirit even after a loss because the next game is in an hour or two. It’s like trying to flip a switch on demand. Mental toughness is key.

It was great to watch the men pick up a silver medal; they’re getting closer to that outright victory. The two squads are very supportive of each other. In Cape Town we bounced back and almost squeezed into the cup final but that’s a story for another day.