The Ireland Women's Sevens side are ready to ramp up preparations for the Tokyo Games after the IRFU confirmed 11 players have been handed full-time contracts.
Twelve more have been signed to development contracts.
Ireland will qualify for the Games if they fifinish as a top-four ranked team in the 2018/19 Women’s Sevens Series or as a top ranked team in the 2019 Rugby Europe 7s Grand Prix.
If they win the the European tournament they will automatically qualify, though a second or third-placed finish will give them another shot in a World Repechage.
"It is a huge year for both the women’s and men’s squads as we strive to qualify both teams for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020," said Anthony Eddy, IRFU Director of Women’s and Sevens Rugby.
"The World Series is a massive competition for the women’s programme providing access to top class international opposition across the season and it takes on added significance this year as a direct qualification route for the Olympics.
"The women’s squad will also be competing on the Rugby Europe Grand Prix circuit next summer which is another qualification route for Tokyo."
David Nucifora, IRFU Performance Director, commented, "This investment reflects Irish Rugby’s ambition for Ireland 7s to be represented at the Olympic Games in Tokyo in two years’ time.
The 23 women’s player contracts and the establishment of match payments for the Women’s XV squad is reflective of the IRFU’s strategic goals to develop the women’s game over the coming years.
Full-time XV’s contracts are not being considered at present as the greatest level of investment within the women’s game will be focused on developing and enhancing the player pathway experience, creating greater access to the game and driving participation."
Women full-time contracts
Kathy Baker (Blackrock College)
Ashleigh Baxter (Cooke)
Aoife Doyle (Shannon/Railway Union)
Katie Fitzhenry (Blackrock College)
Stacey Flood (Railway Union)
Louise Galvin (UL Bohemians)
Eve Higgins (Railway Union)
Lucy Mulhall (Rathdrum)
Amee-Leigh Murphy-Crowe (Railway Union)
Audrey O’Flynn (Ireland Sevens Programme)
Hannah Tyrrell (Old Belvedere)
Women’s Development Contracts
Claire Boles (Railway Union)
Megan Burns (Tullamore)
Anna Doyle (Railway Union)
Katie Heffernan (Railway Union)
Brittany Hogan (Railway Union)
Claire Keohane (UL Bohemians)
Lucinda Kingham (Monaghan)
Emily Lane (Mallow)
Anna McGann (Old Belvedere)
Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird (Old Belvedere)
Molly Scuffil-McCabe (Railway Union)
Dorothy Wall (Fethard)
2018/19 HSBC Women’s World Series Tournaments
USA (Denver) – 20-21 October 2018
DUBAI – 29-30 November 2018
AUSTRALIA (Sydney) – 1-3 February 2019
JAPAN (Kitakyushu) – 20-21 April 2019
CANADA (Langford) – 11-12 May 2019
FRANCE (Paris) – 7-9 June 2019