The IRFU has said it "regrets any upset it has caused" over the decision to advertise for a part-time women's 15s coach and said that although it was never a full-time position it may become one following a review.

The association has drawn criticism from the likes of current player Jenny Murphy, former internationals Ruth O'Reilly and Fiona Steed, and former coach Philip Doyle for deciding to appoint a six-month part-time successor to Tom Tierney, who concluded a full-time three-year contract at the end of this year's underwhelming World Cup campaign.

"It signals maybe where the thinking is within the IRFU at the moment and it shows to me a distinct lack of strategy on their behalf or any long-term strategy certainly when it comes to the women's game," O'Reilly told RTÉ Radio 1's Morning Ireland yesterday.

The IRFU have defended the change by asserting that Tierney was employed as a full-time coach between both the 7s and 15s teams, whereas the new coach will exclusively be involved with the 15s.

They also said that the part-time status of the new coaching position could change after the 2018 Six Nations, following a full-scale review of women's rugby structures.

IRFU statement

"The IRFU wishes to address the confusion that has arisen in recent days regarding the coaching position for the Ireland Women's team.  The IRFU regrets any upset that it has caused. 

"Contrary to recent comment, the IRFU has not downgraded the coaching role in relation to the Ireland Women's team.  While the outgoing coach was employed on a full-time basis, he was, as confirmed in the announcement of his appointment in December 2014 a shared resource across the Women's XVs and Sevens programmes. He was not exclusively employed as a full-time Ireland Women's XVs coach. 

"The IRFU confirms that it is in the process of reviewing the entire structure of the women's game in order to develop the next long-term strategy as we build to the 2021 Women's Rugby World Cup, and beyond. 

"Based on the experience of the most recent structure, which saw the sharing of time between the Women's XVs and Sevens programmes, the IRFU is seeking to appoint a coach on an interim basis, to work exclusively with the Ireland Women's XV team, until the end of the 2018 Women's Six Nations.  

"As confirmed already, this coaching position will be re-examined fully after the tournament, as part of the wider IRFU review.

"At a recent press conference in Dublin, Performance Director, David Nucifora spoke of the need to examine the women's game from grassroots level up. This will ensure appropriate levels of competition in the domestic game, and foster the development of players with international potential.

"The Women's programme has received a significant increase in investment in recent years, with a full-time Director of Rugby and a full-time Women's programme manager as well as back-room resources such as strength and conditioning, physio and nutrition professionals.

"The person who takes on the Ireland Women's XVs team coaching role will work with, and report into, the Director of Rugby. It is important that, on conclusion of the on-going review, the IRFU is in a position to appoint staff, including a head coach, full-time if necessary, who can deliver to the long-term strategy identified."