Ulster players Kieran Campbell and Justin Fitzpatrick will be supporting the Irish Exiles DHL Sevens teams competing at the Guinness Carrick Sevens on the 28th -30th of April. Both players came through the Exiles system which was formed in 1989 as a Branch of the IRFU, to identify Irish Qualified players living in England, Scotland and Wales. To date the Exiles are responsible for producing 19 full internationals, including Simon Geoghean, the Easterby brothers, Robb Henderson, Kevin Maggs, Simon Mason as well as the aforementioned Ulster duo.
As part of this programme the Exiles started playing Sevens last season. Their purpose is to use Sevens as a pathway to develop the skills of young players and to keep their over 21's involved with the Exiles and Irish rugby.
They are sending a young development side to compete in the U20's competition which starts at 6pm Friday evening. along with eleven other sides from England and Ulster. They will be joined in the squad by David Fenlon who played Ireland youth last season and played for Ireland U19 A' against Australian schools this season.
Getting the senior squad to Carrickfergus to compete in the Manvik Senior Sevens starting at 2 pm on the Sunday, will be a logistical challenge for team manager Ces Shaw. All the players in the senior squad will be playing league games on the Saturday, which will include a 6 hour drive for the boys playing for the Cornish Pirates following their game against London Welsh. The squad will fly in from Heathrow, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol and Stansted.
The squad of 10 contains 3 former Ireland U21 players John Skurr, Nick McClelland and Robie Shaw. Shaw played in the U21 side that Ulster's Director of Rugby, Mark McCall, coached in 2003/04 season. Shaw has also played rugby for Ireland at U18 and U19. Joining in the squad will be Ireland Sevens international Mark Bruce. Bruce played Sevens for Loughborough University and has recently moved to Galway where he is playing for Buccaneers.
The President of the Exiles, John O'Driscoll (the former British Lion and Ireland back row) will be in Carrickfergus on the Sunday to cast an eye over his squad, where he will be joined by IRFU President Andy Crawford who has strong ties to the Exiles.
...John O'Driscoll, President of The Exiles, pictured here against France in 1984...
In addition to these competitions, the popular Guinness Open tournament which has attracted entries from throughout the British Isles, will start at 1pm on the Saturday along with the Kukri Sportswear Ladies 10s which will run alongside the senior competition on the Sunday. As well as the on field action there will plenty be happening off the pitch for all ages; with a supervised kids zone, the Wild Geese Parachute Display team delivering the match ball at 2pm on the Sunday and live music in the Guinness Beer tent and the Guinness Marquee all weekend.
The Guinness Carrick Sevens committee are also pleased to announce that the top sports drink Powerade will be available to all competitiors throughout the event who along with the other supporters Carrickfergus Council, the Northern Ireland Events Company and media partners the News Letter are going all out to make the Carrick Sevens the largest festival of rugby in Ulster.
For information and pictures from the launch of the Carrick 7s - click here
For updates on the tournament visit www.carricksevens.co.uk