The job’s not done yet, not by any means as Ireland prepare for a HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series quarter-final showdown with Fiji on Sunday, but Anthony Eddy‘s side have already showcased themselves as a team to be reckoned with in Cape Town this week.
Ireland advanced through to the Cup quarter-finals at the Cape Town Sevens on Saturday after negotiating the Pool stages unbeaten and their victories over Australia and Samoa, followed by a 24-24 draw with Kenya, was enough for Eddy’s side to notch a first Pool win as a core team on the World Series.
Coming off the back of a disappointing 12th-place finish at the season opener in Dubai last week, Ireland have responded emphatically in South Africa to raise their performance levels considerably and, in upsetting the Wallabies on Friday and then overcoming the physicality of Samoa, show just why they’re hoping to make a big impression in their maiden season on the World Series.
Ireland’s reward for topping their Pool is a last eight meeting with reigning World Series champions Fiji (12.02pm local time, 10.02am Irish time), who finished second in Pool A behind South Africa.
It will be a huge challenge for Eddy’s charges but they go into Sunday’s clash brimming with confidence and in the knowledge that on their day, they can mix it and beat the best as four invitational appearances previously demonstrated.
“We were disappointed with Dubai because we knew we could play a lot better and we’re showing that this weekend,” Harry McNulty told IrishRugby.ie. “To come top of the Pool and make it to a quarter-finals is absolutely huge. It’s a lot of fun getting to showcase ourselves on the World Series.”
After a difficult debut appearance in Dubai, during which they recorded just one win against Scotland, Ireland hit the reset button this week and their shortcomings in the desert focused minds ahead of the second leg of the 2019/20 campaign at the Cape Town Stadium.
Eddy’s charges conjured a brilliant display to come from behind and beat Australia in their opening game as Terry Kennedy‘s injury-time try sealed victory, while Saturday’s four-try win over Samoa paved the way through to the quarter-finals as McNulty, Kennedy, Jordan Conroy and John O’Donnell all crossed.
“One thing that sticks out for me from last week to this week have been the harsh learnings we took from Dubai,” O’Donnell says.
“We’ve put a few things right and we’ve really taken on board what the coaches have said and put it into our Pool play. That’s been a real positive but the quarters is not where we want to end the tournament, not by any stretch, as we want to keep pushing through and play three games on the final day.”
Looking ahead to Sunday’s tie, which will be played in front of a capacity crowd of over 50,000 in Cape Town, McNulty adds: “It’s a great opportunity to showcase how well we can play and we just need to make sure we’re switched on and we’re playing at the best of our capabilities and when we’re doing that, we know we can beat any team.
“As long as we hold onto the ball, I think we’ve got a really good chance.”
The game is live on Sky Sports Action.