10 Dec, 12:23
Ireland's John Lacey will referee his first ever RBS 6 Nations match in February, while Alain Rolland is also included in the Elite Panel in what is his last season.
The weekend's events will start at 6pm on Friday evening with the Kukri Sportswear Under-20s, which has twelve teams involved. They include Ballymena, Ballynahinch and past winners Malone.
Current Ulster Under-20 and Newcastle Falcons player James Shiels will be joined by a number of Irish Exiles, Chris Henderson and Stuart McKenzie, in a strong Dungannon side. They will find stiff opposition from newcomers Telford College from Edinburgh, along with English club, Leamington Spa who are bringing two sides over to compete for the Johnston Cup.
On Saturday, the Guinness Open competition commences at 12.30pm with twenty teams in action and over half of them travelling from Scotland and England. They will be battling it out for the Holmes Trophy and £1500 prize money with local side Academy determined to continue their successful season following promotion.
However, Hawick Linden, whom Academy defeated in the final last year, will want revenge, while the students from Heriot Watt, who are led by current Currie player and local lad Chris Browne, could also have a say in the destination of the title. Carrickfergus have strong ambitions to keep the trophy at Woodlawn but Cork outfit DNA Warriors could also cause a surprise.
On Sunday, the action kicks off at 12.30pm with the Kukri Allstarzz Dancers cheering the arrival of the Wild Geese Parachute Display team, who will be delivering the match ball from 3000 feet.
The Manvik Premier tournament will bring together some of the best teams from England and Ireland, who will be vying for the Simms Salver and £3000. Last year's winners, the Irish Exiles DHL Sevens are aiming to retain the title but their manager Ces Shaw is very aware that they have lost the element of surprise they had last year. This time around, current Sedgley Park member, John Skurr, who is joined by a number of current Irish Under-19 players, will captain them. Leading the local challenge will be Ballymena, Belfast Harlequins and Dungannon, who all have a number of Ulster squad players available to them.
Former Ulster and Ireland player Andy Ward will be hoping that he picks up no injuries during Friday's Ulster Senior Cup final so that 'Quins can try to go one better than last year. Jacques Benaud will be looking to repeat the success that he had in 2005 with Malone and is hoping to be able to call upon Chris Henry and Scott Young for his Ballymena side. Following their promotion to Division On of the AIB League, Old Belvedere will be keen to impress, while one of the teams that has replaced them in Division Two, Ballynahinch, will have the experienced Johnny Cullen to lead their challenge.
Alongside the men, the Lombard Ladies 10s, with eight teams involved, will be showcasing how far the ladies game has progressed. With three English teams and Welsh side Pontyclun Falcons making their first trip over, local sides Cooke, Queens UUJ and Carrickfergus may find the going tough.
Off the pitch a number of areas have been set aside to cater for all age groups of children on both Saturday and Sunday, while the Guinness Marquee will provide the entertainment at night time.
So with 50 teams and 50 competitors heading to Carrickfergus RFC for the Bank Holiday weekend, this year's tournament promises to be the biggest yet.
- For up-to-date information on the 2007 Guinness Carrick Sevens, please visit ww.carricksevens.co.uk