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History Made As Two Ireland Teams Qualify For Sevens World Cup

History Made As Two Ireland Teams Qualify For Sevens World Cup

The Ireland Men’s Sevens squad have joined their female counterparts in qualifying for next summer’s Sevens Rugby World Cup in San Francisco – the first time this has been achieved by the IRFU Sevens programme.

The Ireland Men’s Sevens squad have joined their female counterparts in qualifying for next summer’s Sevens Rugby World Cup in San Francisco – the first time this has been achieved by the IRFU Sevens programme.

Ireland have competed in five previous Men’s RWC Sevens tournaments – 1993, 1997, 2001, 2005 and 2009 – with the Women’s team making their Sevens World Cup bow four years ago in Moscow.

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The men made it through to San Francisco courtesy of a third place finish at the Exeter 7s, the final leg of the Rugby Europe Sevens Grand Prix Series. Their only defeat of the weekend saw them go down 15-12 to Wales in a closely-fought Cup semi-final, before they won their 3rd-4th place play-off against Portugal (33-12).

Ireland fell short of winning the overall Grand Prix Series title, with Russia’s Exeter final win over Wales seeing them crowned overall champions. Russia, who have also qualified for San Francisco, finished top of the series rankings with 74 points, closely followed by debutants Ireland (72) and Spain (58).

Just a week on from the Ireland Women’s qualification for the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament, the men in green booked their place at the much-anticipated Stateside event which will be held at the iconic AT&T Park – the home of the San Francisco Giants – on July 20-22 next year.

It has been a summer to remember for the IRFU Sevens set-up, marshalled by Director of Sevens Rugby Anthony Eddy and Sevens development coach Stan McDowell. The Women’s team reached new heights with a ninth place finish in the World Series and second place in Europe, while today, at the Exeter 7s, the men’s side ended their first ever Rugby Europe Grand Prix Series as runners-up.

Their two stated aims for the Grand Prix Series was earning a place in the World Rugby Sevens Series qualifying tournament in Hong Kong next April as well as reaching the 2018 RWC Sevens, and Eddy’s charges achieved both of those goals and have now announced themselves as a force to be reckoned with at European level.

Just two short years ago Ireland won the Rugby Europe Division B and C crowns, last year they were the Rugby Europe Trophy champions and gained promotion to the Grand Prix Series. There was a notable turnover of players this season with some key men, including former captain Tom Daly, Adam Byrne, Rory O’Loughlin, Barry Daly, Dan Goggin and Alex Wootton, stepping up with the provinces in the 15-a-side game.

That left the way open for new Sevens players to emerge and Eddy’s rejigged squad has knitted together really quickly, led by surefooted skipper Billy Dardis, talismanic forward Harry McNulty and flying top scorer Jordan Conroy, who was the Mitsubishi Motors Player of the Tournament in Exeter. The Tullamore man ended the Grand Prix Series with a hugely impressive tally of 17 tries.

The 21-year-old Hugo Keenan was another player to shine at Sandy Park, matching Conroy’s six tries over the course of the weekend, while McNulty, Mark Roche, Ian Fitzpatrick and Terry Kennedy – all members of the initial 2015 squad – continue to wield influence throughout the series.

The wider training group has ensured that competition for places was extremely high this year, with Adam Leavy, the younger brother of 15s international Dan, becoming the latest player to earn his first Sevens cap in Exeter.

Apart from ‘elder statesman’ Fionn Carr, the squad in Exeter were all aged between 20 and 24, so they certainly have youth on their side as they look forward to Hong Kong and the World Cup stage. Eddy and McDowell could hardly have asked for better from the players in recent weeks, after tournament wins in both Moscow and Clermont and third-place finishes in Lodz and Exeter.

Having topped their pool with three wins from three yesterday, Ireland resumed their Exeter 7s campaign with a 24-7 Cup quarter-final victory over hosts England, who fielded a youthful team, this morning.

Following an early knock-on from Carr, England controlled possession and the tempo of the opening minutes, with Dardis doing just enough to track back and deny home captain Alex Davis a try.

However, Davis managed to cut in behind the posts in the fifth minute after his side had won back the ball from the restart and injected pace from a quick tap just inside the Irish 22.

Ireland had been starved of possession up to that point, and a late penalty at the breakdown won by Carr allowed them to build for an unconverted try past the hooter. Carr carried well initially and he popped up shortly afterwards to send Conroy over in the left corner, cutting the gap to 7-5.

Workhorse Keenan showed some nice touches in defence and attack as Ireland resumed on the front foot. A sidestep from McNulty opened up the English defence before a tap tackle thwarted Fitzpatrick with the try-line in sight.

Nonetheless, the game’s key score arrived in the very next phase as replacement John O’Donnell helped to drive the English scrum off their own ball. Snapping up the turnover, Dardis fed the inrushing Keenan for an 11th-minute converted try, to the right of the posts.

Ireland tightened their grip on proceedings with a quick-fire third try, Dardis firing out a long pass for O’Donnell to step inside a defender and outmuscle another to ground the ball wide on the left. Keenan, who was busy as ever, wrapped up the result late on with his second try after his own initial ball-dislodging tackle and good work from McNulty and Dardis.

However, Ireland’s winning run in Exeter was halted at the semi-final stage by Wales who picked their most experienced squad of the series for the final leg. Keenan was hauled down at the end of a pacy attacking involving Conroy, and two lineout steals robbed Ireland of decent platforms in the Welsh half.

An unconverted try from Luke Treharne, whose dummy and silky run saw him score with a minute left before half-time, gave Wales a 5-0 buffer at the turnound, but Conroy – released following Fitzpatrick’s well-won ruck penalty – soon took off past Lloyd Lewis on the outside for a high quality ninth-minute try, converted by Dardis.

Crucially, McNulty was beaten to the restart by Cai Devine who did really well to set Luke Morgan free for a sucker-punch score at 10-7. Indiscipline at ruck time allowed Wales to stay in control and Morgan, their top try scorer in the World Series, duly sniped over from a tap penalty 10 metres out.

Now trailing 15-7 and with time running, the Irish bench was to the fore as they conjured up a last-minute try. Carr ran hard up the right wing, linked with Conroy and took the return pass to touch down out wide. Roche narrowly missed the conversion and there were no late heroics as time was up on the match clock.

Still with hopes of pipping Russia to the series title, Ireland got back to winning ways in the 3rd-4th place play-off thanks to a 33-12 defeat of Portugal, the quarter-final conquerors of Spain who saw their World Cup hopes dashed.

Eddy’s charges, who brought in Roche and Jimmy O’Brien as starters, dominated possession and territory in the first half. Keenan struck for a try after just 27 seconds, Roche taking a penalty quickly after a high tackle and the UCD youngster finished off from close range.

With Bernardo Cardoso sin-binned for the high tackle, Ireland had to take advantage and they did with a second try from Keenan who was fed by Fitzpatrick to score in the right corner, making it 12-0.

That was the scoreline up to half-time, with a last-ditch cover tackle forcing a knock-on from Conroy, but Ireland hit the ground running again in the second period. Accurate passing out to both touchlines led to numbers on the right and Fitzpatrick nipped inside a defender to make it over in the corner.

Roche tagged on an outstanding conversion from the right, before some superb Portuguese interplay saw Frederico Oliveira strike for a seven-pointer in the 11th minute. It was replacement Greg O’Shea who restored Ireland’s 19-point cushion (26-7), showing a smashing turn of pace to race up the left wing and dot down with Roche again converting.

The fifth Irish try followed straight from the restart, McNulty placing himself perfectly to scoop up the breaking ball and pass for O’Donnell to dart clear and in under the posts, with Roche adding the extras. Portugal had the final say with a late consolation try from Tiago Fernandes.

FULL VIDEO REPLAY – CUP QUARTER-FINAL: IRELAND 24 ENGLAND 7 (6:00-28:17) by Rugby Europe

FULL VIDEO REPLAY – CUP SEMI-FINAL: IRELAND 12 WALES 15 (50:13-1:31:21) by Rugby Europe

FULL VIDEO REPLAY – 3RD-4TH PLACE PLAY-OFF: IRELAND 33 PORTUGAL 12 (52:18-1:13:36) by Rugby Europe

IRELAND MEN’S SEVENS Squad (2017 Rugby Europe Sevens Grand Prix Series – Round 4, Sandy Park, Exeter, Saturday, July 15-Sunday, July 16):

Fionn Carr (Naas)
Jordan Conroy (Buccaneers/Connacht)
Billy Dardis (UCD) (capt)
Ian Fitzpatrick (Lansdowne/Leinster)
Hugo Keenan (UCD/Leinster)
Adam Leavy (Galwegians/Connacht) *
Harry McNulty (UCD)
Jimmy O’Brien (UCD/Leinster)
John O’Donnell (Lansdowne)
Greg O’Shea (Shannon)
Mark Roche (Lansdowne)
Nick Timoney (Queen’s University/Ulster)

* Denotes uncapped player

IRELAND MEN’S SEVENS Results –

Exeter 7s – Pool A:

Saturday, July 15:

Ireland 36 Portugal 7, Sandy Park
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Jordan Conroy, Nick Timoney, Harry McNulty, John O’Donnell, Jimmy O’Brien, Hugo Keenan; Cons: Billy Dardis, Mark Roche 2

Team: Nick Timoney, Harry McNulty, Hugo Keenan, Ian Fitzpatrick, Jordan Conroy, Fionn Carr, Billy Dardis (capt).

Subs: Adam Leavy, Greg O’Shea, John O’Donnell, Jimmy O’Brien, Mark Roche.

Ireland 40 Belgium 7, Sandy Park
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Jordan Conroy, Mark Roche, Hugo Keenan, Jimmy O’Brien 2, Ian Fitzpatrick; Cons: Mark Roche 4, Billy Dardis

Team: Harry McNulty (capt), Hugo Keenan, Ian Fitzpatrick, John O’Donnell, Jordan Conroy, Jimmy O’Brien, Mark Roche.

Subs: Adam Leavy, Greg O’Shea, Nick Timoney, Fionn Carr, Billy Dardis.

Ireland 26 France 0, Sandy Park
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Jordan Conroy 2, Ian Fitzpatrick, Jimmy O’Brien; Cons: Billy Dardis 2, Mark Roche

Team: Nick Timoney, Harry McNulty, Hugo Keenan, Ian Fitzpatrick, Jordan Conroy, Fionn Carr, Billy Dardis (capt).

Subs: Adam Leavy, Greg O’Shea, John O’Donnell, Jimmy O’Brien, Mark Roche.

Day 1 Round-Up: Ireland Men’s Sevens Team Tee Up Exeter Quarter-Final Against England

Sunday, July 16:

Cup Quarter-Final: Ireland 24 England 7, Sandy Park
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Jordan Conroy, Hugo Keenan 2, John O’Donnell; Cons: Billy Dardis 2

Team: Nick Timoney, Harry McNulty, Hugo Keenan, Ian Fitzpatrick, Jordan Conroy, Fionn Carr, Billy Dardis (capt).

Subs: Adam Leavy, Greg O’Shea, John O’Donnell, Jimmy O’Brien, Mark Roche.

Cup Semi-Final: Ireland 12 Wales 15, Sandy Park
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Jordan Conroy, Fionn Carr; Con: Billy Dardis

Team: Nick Timoney, Harry McNulty, Hugo Keenan, Ian Fitzpatrick, Jordan Conroy, Jimmy O’Brien, Billy Dardis (capt).

Subs: Adam Leavy, Greg O’Shea, John O’Donnell, Fionn Carr, Mark Roche.

3rd-4th Place Play-Off: Ireland 33 Portugal 12, Sandy Park
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Hugo Keenan 2, Ian Fitzpatrick, Greg O’Shea, John O’Donnell; Cons: Mark Roche 4

Team: Nick Timoney, Harry McNulty (capt), Hugo Keenan, Ian Fitzpatrick, Jordan Conroy, Jimmy O’Brien, Mark Roche.

Subs: Adam Leavy, Greg O’Shea, John O’Donnell, Fionn Carr, Billy Dardis.

The full pool tables, results and series standings are available on the Rugby Europe tournament page. For information on the 2018 RWC Sevens tournament, click here.