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Deirbhle Nic a Bháird: Smaller ball would make women's rugby 'more exciting'

Deirbhle Nic a Bháird reckons women's rugby could be "more exciting" if they didn’t have to use the same sized ball as the men’s game.

It’s an anomaly in mainstream ball-handling sports that the size of ball is not adjusted to the physiology of the participants.

Gaelic football, camogie, Australian rules, basketball and cricket, for examples, all use smaller balls in the female version, while in volleyball, the ball is slighter bigger for women.

For a sport in competition with much more established codes, it sometimes doesn’t help itself in its aim to grow numbers.

While the size of the ball is not an excuse for the 39 handling errors in Ireland’s Six Nations match against Italy – there were 35 in the men’s game between the two nations – it doesn’t help with basic catch-pass skills and reduces lineout options.

There is an argument about negatively impacting the kicking game but in the battle for eyeballs, one surely trumps the other.

"I’m not sure what the most effective thing is but I definitely feel it’s worth looking at," Ireland back row Nic a Bháird, currently rehabbing a serious ACL injury, tells RTÉ Sport.

"Even in terms of making the game more exciting, handling-wise, someone like Sam [Monaghan, Ireland lock] throws how many offloads a game?

"Imagine how many more she could throw, and how many other people could throw them if the ball was adjusted to our [stature], I guess.

"I’m on the smaller end of the player spectrum as it is so it would probably benefit me as well."

Last year there were reports of a possible trial with a smaller ball in a regional competition in Asia with the aim to "enhance player and fan experience".

A previous trial with a size 4 ball presented difficulties with kicking, but there is also the