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Dardis: Six Big Games, We Just Need To Switch It On And Perform

Dardis: Six Big Games, We Just Need To Switch It On And Perform

The excitement and anticipation is building for the start of Ireland’s Hong Kong 7s campaign and their bid for a place on next season’s HSBC World Rugby Men’s Sevens Series. Anthony Eddy’s men face the Cook Islands first up on Friday (12.20pm local time/5.20am Irish time).

It was an extremely busy captains photocall at Victoria Bay on Wednesday, with Ireland Men’s skipper Billy Dardis joining 39 other captains in front of a picturesque Hong Kong island backdrop as teams gear up for four days of fierce competition.

As well as the sold-out 16-team HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series main event running across three days from Friday to Sunday, two qualifier events will also run parallel to the core tournament.

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Twelve teams, including Ireland, will battle it out in the Men’s World Sevens Series qualifier, with the winning side taking the prestigious prize of core team status for 2019. The same applies in the Women’s qualifier competition, played across Thursday and Friday, with a core team spot on the Women’s Sevens Series up for grabs.

The 13-man Irish squad, most of whom were silver medallists in last summer’s Rugby Europe Grand Prix Series, have been training at King’s Park and Happy Valley since Monday and acclimatising to the humid Hong Kong conditions, with temperatures touching 28 degrees both today and tomorrow.

Summing up in the mood in camp, Dardis said: “We’re pretty excited, a little bit nervous. We’ve trained really well over the last few months, the last few weeks. I think we just need to put that into practice and go really hard at this competition.

“We’re just really excited to be here. Obviously it’s a massive challenge coming to Hong Kong, all the challenges that present themselves – the heat and stuff like that – but we just want to get out on the pitch on Friday and get started. We’re really looking forward to it.”

Although Ireland have drawn plenty of confidence from past performances, including outings this season in Munich, Elche, San Jose, Dubai and South America, the 23-year-old Dubliner said it is all about ‘the here and now’ as they look to follow in the footsteps of Russia (2015), Japan (2016) and Spain (2017) who all qualified for the World Series through the Hong Kong route.

“We just need to switch it on here and now, and perform. Six big games (across the pool and knockouts), we need to perform really well in those six games. We just need to switch it on at the right times, only now matters. The past is in the past,” added Dardis, whose side face competition from the Cook Islands, Jamaica and Uruguay in Pool G.

Asked about the squad’s approach to the start of the tournament, which will be streamed live via www.worldrugby.org, he explained: “We’re just focusing on ourselves, you can’t get too bogged down and carried away with external factors. Just focus on ourselves, get our own jobs right, get our own roles right, and hopefully the result will look after itself. Just need to work really hard and hopefully it will come our way.”

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World Rugby Sevens Series Qualifier – Hong Kong 7s Fixtures/Pools

IRELAND MEN’S SEVENS Squad (2018 World Rugby Sevens Series Qualifier – Hong Kong 7s, Hong Kong Stadium, Friday, April 6-Sunday, April 8):

Robert Baloucoune (Enniskillen/Ballymena/Ulster) *
Will Connors (UCD/Leinster) *
Shane Daly (Cork Constitution/Munster) *
Billy Dardis (UCD) (capt)
Ian Fitzpatrick (Lansdowne/Leinster)
Foster Horan (Lansdowne) *
Hugo Keenan (UCD/Leinster)
Terry Kennedy (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)
Harry McNulty (UCD)
Bryan Mollen (Dublin University) *
Jimmy O’Brien (UCD/Leinster)
John O’Donnell (Lansdowne)
Mark Roche (Blackrock College)

* Denotes uncapped player

WORLD RUGBY SEVENS SERIES QUALIFIER – HONG KONG 7s:

IRELAND FIXTURES –

Friday, April 6

POOL G:

Ireland v Cook Islands, Hong Kong Stadium, 12.20pm local time/5.20am Irish time
Ireland v Jamaica, Hong Kong Stadium, 3.18pm local time/8.18am Irish time

Saturday, April 7

Ireland v Uruguay, Hong Kong Stadium, 9.22am local time/2.22am Irish time

QUARTER-FINALS

Sunday, April 8

SEMI-FINALS & FINAL