#RWC7s – Ireland 7s programme paying ‘big dividends’

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RWC7s - Ireland 7s programme pays dividends
PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 09: Ireland players pose with the Trophy after winning the Challenge Trophy during match between Ireland and Russi at the HSBC Paris Sevens, stage of the Rugby Sevens World Series at Stade Jean Bouin on June 9, 2018 in Paris, France. (Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images for HSBC)

Irish Rugby will have two teams competing at the Rugby World Cup Sevens (RWC7s) in San Francisco this weekend. While both the Ireland Men’s 7s and Ireland (IRE) Women’s 7s have competed at the World Cup previously, they have never competed simultaneously at a pinnacle event.

With the eyes of the rugby world watching, this weekend provides a great opportunity for Anthony Eddy and Stan McDowell to catapult the Irish 7s programme onto the world stage.

Ireland will be banking on the speed of rookie Jordan Conroy to lay the platform for the men’s group, as will Aimee-Leigh Murphy-Crowe with the Women’s. Both sides can never be underestimated as they have really grown in the game. The Irish flair within will be their driving force.

The three day tournament will be from the July 20-22 at the AT&T Park. 16 women’s and 24 men’s sides will compete across the three-days, all chasing the ultimate prize; both held currently by New Zealand.

IRE Women 7’s

The Irish women, led by Lucy Mulhall finished 10th in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series this season, probably not reaching their full potential as a squad. However, head coach Anthony Eddy blooded a number of new women’s (W7s) players throughout the World Series; perhaps with one eye on this World Cup.

Newcomers like Deirbhile Nic A Bhaird, Eve Higgins and Kathy Baker have all added real substance to the squad. Combine that with the likes of Stacey Flood, Ashleigh Baxter, and Katie Fitzhenry and it’s not hard not to imagine, that this Irish W7s team are capable of a big upset.

‘Challenging’ opening tournament match

The Irish women open their campaign against England on Friday. The winners progress to the Cup semi-finals, while the losers enter the Challenge Trophy side of the draw. In their most recent clash, it saw Ireland run out 39-7 winners to claim the bronze medal, at the Rugby Europe Grand Prix in Marcoussis.

England have a huge amount of quality in their squad though, but recent results should fill the Irish camp with confidence. “We have had several close games with England this season so it is set to be a challenging way to start the tournament, but the players are very focused,” was the attitude of Anthony Eddy, the IRFU’s Director of Women’s and Sevens Rugby said.

As fans know, anything can happen at an RWC7s!

IRE Men 7s 

The Ireland Men’s team (M7s) will compete in their first World Cup since 2009, and have a realistic chance of collecting some silverware. Ireland are no longer coming into this tournament as ‘underdogs’, with recent outstanding performances.

As the invitational side to the HSBC London 7s, the men beat the home nation England, to claim a historic bronze medal. And a week later at the HSBC Paris 7s, the side again showcased the dangerous talent this squad possesses.

Having missed out on securing a World Series core-team spot in the Hong Kong qualifying event earlier this season, head coach Stan McDowell has thus turned his squad’s focus to San Francisco this weekend. He is wary of the competition, and the knock-out format introduced for 2018. He told the 42.ie,

“we’re expecting to come up against a lot of strong sides over the course of the competition”.

Ireland take on Chile in the Preliminary-round of 16. Should they pass that test, the M7s meet current Sevens Series champions South Africa, in the formal round of 16. Only winners progress to the quarter-final Cup stage, and the losers enter the Challenge Trophy draw.

RWC7s Ireland players to watch

Ireland have a number of notable players in their squad; Jordan Conroy burst onto the World Stage, with his blistering pace and finishing ability in both the XVs and 7s fields. Many will be watching Conroy; which could allow room for others to shine brightly.

Munster coach Johann Van Graan described Shane Daly as an “exceptional player” and believes he’ll soon be seen on the International stage in the XVs game. An Under 20’s player, this is the perfect stage to display his range of skills.

While the M7s squad has been dented slightly by the injury to Mark Roche, captain Billy Dardis, Harry McNulty and Jimmy O’Brien are all capable of stepping-up and producing when needed.

From the women’s squad, Flood, Murphy Crowe and Louis Galvin are three players to watch for within the W7s. All are key to Ireland both creating, and finishing, scoring opportunities that arise.

Injuries have forced new youngsters to join the side but the core of the experienced Sevens Series team remains. They need to be more ruthless in attack and defence, and with the knock-out format, each seven minute half needs to be maximized, if the women want to go deep into this weekend.

What to expect from Ireland at RWC7s

Every game is a knockout in the new World Cup format which will make the games interesting to watch. The Irishmen start their campaign against Chile. The ladies start their tourney against arch rivals England.

Both squads display a huge amount of grit and determination in the way they play, however, a question remains over consistency of performances. An opening win for the Ire W7s against England would provide a useful shot of confidence, and from there anything is possible.

While currently, they may not be able to compete regularly with the bigger names like Australia and New Zealand, the underdog title may suit them. They are certainly capable of upsetting any teams who may be complacent with the prospect at facing Ireland.

The Ire M7s lack the element of surprise (after their performance in London), but this doesn’t make them any less dangerous. They’ve shown that they are capable of beating the best on the World Series. And should they make it to the round of 16, they will certainly challenge the almighty Blitzbok.

The Ireland 7s programme is now paying ‘big dividends’. Silverware is a realistic and achievable goal for these Irish 7s squads this weekend in San Francisco. Something many are sure that they’ll have their sights firmly set on.

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