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‘Terry’s Coming Out With Incredible Plays’ – Dardis

‘Terry’s Coming Out With Incredible Plays’ – Dardis

‘Terry’s Coming Out With Incredible Plays’ – Dardis

Terry Kennedy leads an attack, with captain Billy Dardis and Andrew Smith in support, during Ireland's Cup semi-final win over hosts France at the Toulouse leg of this year's HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series ©INPHO/Martin Seras Lima

His team-mates and opponents will agree with Billy Dardis’ assessment that Terry Kennedy has been ‘unplayable’ at times during a record-breaking HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series campaign for the Ireland Men.

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Already a talisman for the team, Kennedy has taken his form to another level in 2022, finishing as the top try scorer in the World Series – with 50 tries in 52 games – and playing a crucial role in Ireland’s first ever wins over Fiji and South Africa.

Now, the St. Mary’s College speedster is aiming to make more history on one of Sevens’ biggest stages, the World Cup in Cape Town, where Ireland (sponsored by TritonLake) are seeded ninth and gunning for some end-of-year silverware.

Four years ago at the last World Cup in San Francisco, Kennedy scored one of Ireland’s four tries when they beat Australia to win the Challenge Trophy. They finished ninth overall, a leap of seven places on their ranking of 16th.

Since then, they have progressed to become a core team on the World Series, gracing the Olympics in Tokyo and pushing on in 2021/22 to break new ground as fifth place finishers in the World Series.

It was no surprise, given his efforts across the nine legs of the series, that the 26-year-old Kennedy was featured on the official RWC Sevens website as one of the players to watch out for this weekend.

Leading the season’s statistics for tries scored and runs made, and also a member of the coveted HSBC Dream Team, Kennedy is a real game breaker and Ireland captain Dardis hopes the Dubliner can fire on all cylinders in the coming days.

“Terry has been unplayable this year, he is just ridiculous. He’s coming out with incredible plays and he has pulled wins out when we really needed it,” said Dardis, who made his Sevens debut in 2016, a year after Kennedy.

“It seems to be when a player is on form the game just slows down and they can take it by the scruff of the neck. They can score when they need to.

I don’t know what it is but any time he gets the ball, players stand off. He looks like he has a lot of time on the ball. His pace is just electric, he can just burn guys, and makes really good decisions.

“On top of that, everyone sees the tries he scores or line breaks he can cut through, but his attitude this year and his competitiveness has been something that has really stood out.

“That will to win has been the biggest thing for us. He has been barking at lads all year and has become a real leader in the squad.”

Dardis and Kennedy are two of the eight Olympians in the Ireland squad for this World Cup, another of them being flying winger Jordan Conroy whom Kennedy has joined on 74 World Series tries.

Conroy and Kennedy can dovetail brilliantly at times, terrorising defences out wide or through the middle. Their combined value to the Irish attack is underlined by the fact that of the team’s 153 World Series tries this year, the pace-laden pair contributed 74 of them.

Their presence could be vital as Ireland aim to get off to a strong start tomorrow morning against Portugal (kick-off 8.45am local time/7.45am Irish time).

The straight knockout format is being used for the second successive Sevens World Cup, and Ireland coach James Topping believes it suits his side.

“It’s knockout straight from the word go. You have to win five games in a row to win the World Cup,” he told Irish Rugby TV. “That’s good for us. We can beat a team, we think, at any stage.

“Also it gives us impetus because we have to play against Portugal in the first game, who are a real tough side. They qualified being Spain, a World Series team.

“So, for us it’s a good focus for us to have and we also know that if we do perform, we can beat anybody. The format does suit us.”

Ireland’s route to the last-four on Sunday is through Portugal, England, who were silver medallists in 2018, and potentially, the host nation South Africa. Certainly, nothing comes easy at this level of the game.

Along with an experienced core group of Irish players, Jack Kelly, Andrew Smith, Chay Mullins, Hugo Lennox, Mark Roche, Sean Cribbin and Matt McDonald are Sevens World Cup debutants, all itching to make an impression.

Topping says there is ‘a nice blend’ to the squad and that he has ‘full confidence in all the players that go on the pitch’. His skipper Dardis has also acknowledged the leadership Kennedy has shown on the back of his outstanding World Series exploits.

“We’re lucky we have a good few leaders in the squad in the likes of Harry (McNulty), Jack Kelly, ‘Rochey’ (Mark Roche), (Bryan) Mollen, Hugo Lennox, but Terry has become someone who has really led from the front.

“Coming out as top try scorer, getting onto the (HSBC) Dream Team for the season, that was the recognition that he really deserves.

“Hopefully he can continue that vein of form now into this weekend. If he can put on a show in front of 65,000 people and help us to get to where we want to be, we’ll be delighted. Hopefully he can continue that form.”

All of Ireland’s games are live on the RTÉ Player in the Republic of Ireland, while there will be coverage across Irish Rugby social media channels and on IrishRugby.ie. A full list of broadcasters is available here.

The last remaining tickets for the RWC Sevens are available here.