Ireland Under-18 Men’s Sevens coach Allan Temple-Jones hailed the ‘huge character’ shown by his players after they won the Rugby Europe U-18 Sevens Championship in Gdansk with a 26-12 final win over Spain.
It was a hectic weekend of international Sevens action for Ireland’s youngsters, with the U-18 Women’s team winning four of their five Home Nations games in Swansea and the U-18 Men’s side emerging as European champions thanks to their five victories in Poland.
Temple-Jones, who is the Head of Athletic Performance with the IRFU Sevens Programme, said his young squad had overcome ‘a steep learning curve’ to dethrone France and also defeat Germany and Spain during an undefeated second day of knockout clashes.
“The boys are really chuffed,” he said. “Losing to Georgia in the pool stages was a real wake-up call to us. They haven’t had a lot of Sevens-specific experience before this. They showed huge character and did really well. On top of everything, they’ve responded really well to all the detail we’ve been throwing at them.”
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The Ireland U18 Men’s 7s Team have won the Rugby Europe U18 7s Championship in Gdansk! pic.twitter.com/8ex2ldh89l
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) August 18, 2019
This is the time time in four seasons that Ireland have won the European U-18 Sevens title. Hugo Lennox, a current member of the Ireland Sevens senior squad, and Ulster’s Angus Kernohan, Iwan Hughes, Aaron Sexton and Hayden Hyde have all come through the Ireland U-18 Sevens pathway in recent years.
Anthony Eddy, the IRFU Director of Sevens and Women’s Rugby, congratulated both Ireland U-18 squads for their performances over the weekend. It was valuable coaching exposure too for current Sevens international Katie Fitzhenry who joined Ben Martin in taking charge of the U-18 girls in Wales.
“The girls had a really good day yesterday going undefeated and were disappointed to lose to Scotland this morning, so they bounced back really well to finish with a (31-14) win against Wales,” explained Eddy. “The real benefit is the valuable tournament experience they’ve gained ahead of their own Rugby Europe Championship in two weeks’ time.”
Eddy says the U-18 Sevens Programme is a proven pathway to senior Sevens rugby. Indeed, the 2018/19 season alone saw a clutch of U-18 graduates – Brittany Hogan, Emily Lane, Anna Doyle, Beibhinn Parsons, Megan Burns, Lucinda Kinghan and Dorothy Wall – make their senior debuts with the Ireland Women’s Sevens team.
“The U-18 programme has been going for four years and the boys have won their Rugby Europe competition three out of those four years, so it’s another good achievement today. A number of the current senior players have progressed through that programme and we’re hopeful this group can do something similar.
“Some of those boys will now join up with their provinces at the Under-18 Interprovincial Festival in the University of Limerick. It’s great for them to represent their country in a European tournament and then come back to represent their province and IQ Rugby in the same week.”