Ahead of the Rugby World Cup Sevens, Ireland Sevens coach Jon Skurr talked to IrishRugby.ie about the selection of the 12-man squad, the training and preparations involved which included a warm-up tournament in Portugal, some of the players involved and how his love of the Sevens game came about.
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There is a steely determination about Jon Skurr as he counts down the day to the start of Ireland’s odyssey at the 2009 Rugby World Cup Sevens in Dubai.
With weeks of training and a productive warm-up tournament in Portugal behind them, the Ireland Sevens coach feels the players are primed to make the most of this week’s trip to the Middle East.
“We’ve had a number of training camps over the last two months and cutting them down to the final 12 players has been a tough decision,” Skurr explained.
“The boys have trained really well, they’ve put everything into it. I think we’ve got the right 12 that can hopefully do Ireland proud.
“This process has been going on for about 18 months. We’ve gone through players to get us through each stage (including last year’s qualification tournaments).
“And when we’ve gone to the next level, we’ve always improved the squad and the players I’m taking to the World Cup stand a good chance of doing well.
“The players we’ve brought in have some real quality. They’ve picked up the game really well. I’m pretty confident it’s a better squad than we had this time last year.”
Skurr is only 29 and has this season been a regular at number 8 for English club side Rotherham Titans, whom he joined last year after playing for Sedgley Park and Wakefield.
His Sevens experience was honed on the touring circuit in Europe where he played for a number of invitational teams. He also won the highly-regarded Middlesex Sevens tournament with the Bradford Bulls.
An assistant head of Howden Senior School in Goole in East Yorkshire, Skurr has links with the current Ireland senior squad in that he played for an Ireland Under-21 team back in 2000 that contained Paddy Wallace, Gordon D’Arcy, Donncha O’Callaghan and Paul O’Connell.
Kieran Campbell, the Ireland captain for the Rugby World Cup Sevens, was also part of that Under-21 side.
Commenting on Campbell’s selection as skipper, Skurr said: “Kieran’s obviously been with us from the start. He’s massively experienced, the guys look up to him and respect him as a player and appreciates what he’s done.”
Skurr’s squad is an exciting mixture of youth and experience, from Ireland Under-20 Grand Slam winner Felix Jones through to former Great Britain rugby league winger Brian Carney.
He feels he has the right blend to do some damage in Dubai and is particularly looking forward to seeing how the younger players fare under the World Cup spotlight.
“It’s going to be very tough, it’s not going to be an easy task whatsoever. But the benefit is that we’re going to be a surprise package – no one has seen us play. We can use that to our advantage.
“We’ve done a lot of work together, all the boys have been together for a while now and we’re hoping that we can surprise a few people and turn a few of the big teams over.
“Some of the young guys we’ve got with us have the potential to go a long way and this is going to test them.
“It puts them in an arena they’re not used to, it’s a 50,000-sell-out in Dubai and it’s really going to put them under pressure. It’s going to make or break some of them.”
To listen to the Jon Skurr interview in full, click here.
IrishRugby.ie also interviewed Kieran Campbell, Paul Marshall and James Coughlan.
Ireland RWC Sevens squad details.