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Dardis Ready To Lead Ireland Into Long-Awaited Olympic Qualifier

Dardis Ready To Lead Ireland Into Long-Awaited Olympic Qualifier

Ireland Men's Sevens captain Billy Dardis in Monaco ahead of the World Rugby Sevens Repechage (World Rugby/Getty Images).

It feels like an eternity since the team’s last Olympic Qualifier back in July 2019, but that has done little to dim the appetite of Ireland Men’s Sevens captain Billy Dardis.

Courtesy of a third place finish at the Rugby Europe Qualifier in Colomiers, France two summers ago, Ireland were afforded a final shot at reaching the Tokyo Olympic Games at the World Rugby Sevens Repechage in Monaco.

Originally set to be held 12 months ago, the COVID-19 pandemic ultimately put this tournament on ice. It is now finally due to take place this weekend (June 19-20) with Dardis and his Sevens team-mates facing Pool stage games against Zimbabwe, Mexico, Tonga and Samoa across two days before hopefully progressing to the semi-final phase of the Repechage.

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“It has been a good two years since we played the last qualifier over in Colomiers. It has been building, building. Obviously we had our first year on the World Series and each tournament was building up to that qualifier in Monaco in June [2020],” Dardis remarked in the build-up to this weekend’s tournament.

“Obviously it got pushed back and the whole world went on hold for a year, and then this year has just been one long pre-season. We’ve been lucky enough to play a good few games against Academies and GB. At the same time we actually feel like we’re coming into it pretty nicely. Which is good, but it has been a long build-up to be fair.”

A debutant against Latvia at a Rugby Europe event in Malmö, Sweden back in June 2016, Dardis has experienced the highs and lows that come with being an Ireland Sevens international.

After cruelly missing out on HSBC World Series qualification in a last-gasp defeat to Japan at the Hong Kong 7s in April 2018, Dardis and his team-mates managed to get it right in the same tournament 12 months later.

Billy Dardis

Another milestone is within their grasp this weekend as the winner of this 10-team tournament can book their ticket for the Japanese capital later this summer.

“We’ve come on quite a journey. A few bumps along the road. We have come from, they say, the basement up to the penthouse. It has been a rocky old journey, but it would be brilliant to do a job this week.

“It has been building up to this for the last few years. I played in the last Repechage in Monaco five years ago. We were unlucky not to get into a semi-final or final that time. It would be nice to come full circle and to qualify. It would be pretty special.”

When Dardis made his competitive Sevens debut, Ireland were captained by Tom Daly – the now-Connacht centre who was called up to the Ireland National squad at the beginning of this week. Former Newbridge College and Terenure College student Dardis subsequently assumed the role of skipper a year on from his initial introduction to the Sevens system and admits he has dreamt of leading his country out on the biggest sporting stage in the world.

“I’d be lying if I said I haven’t. It’s what has been driving me for the last 18 months or two years. The chance to captain this team. To represent Irish rugby, to represent Ireland. The chance to carry the hopes and dreams of a nation for a weekend. To inspire a group of kids to want to play rugby.

“It would be massive for Irish sevens. To be in that spotlight for a weekend would be absolutely incredible. It’s very motivating to want to lead a team to the Olympics. It’s pretty cool.”

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