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Nucifora: Cape Town Was An Unbelievable Effort From Those Boys

Nucifora: Cape Town Was An Unbelievable Effort From Those Boys

Nucifora: Cape Town Was An Unbelievable Effort From Those Boys

The Ireland Men's Sevens team claimed wins over Portugal, England, hosts South Africa and Australia during their bronze medal-winning World Cup campaign ©INPHO/Travis Prior

The first Men’s leg of this season’s HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series takes place in Hong Kong on November 4-6, just eight short weeks since Ireland won bronze at the Rugby World Cup Sevens.

Facing Kenya first up on Friday week, James Topping’s side have the honour of kicking off the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens as the qualification race for the Paris Olympics begins in earnest.

Ireland (sponsored by Triton Lake) have been drawn in Pool D with Argentina, the fourth place finishers from last season’s series, the strong-running Kenyans and Canada.

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This will be the first edition of the world-renowned Hong Kong Sevens since 2019 due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the postponement of last season’s tournament from April to next week.

It will be the Ireland Men’s first time to play at the iconic Hong Kong Stadium since they achieved core status on the World Series by winning the 2019 Qualifier final against the host nation.

Backboned by the ‘Originals’ from 2015 and some stalwart names, including the 2022 Series’ Top Try Scorer and HSBC Dream Team member Terry Kennedy who is on sabbatical in Australia this season, the IRFU Men’s Sevens Programme continues to regenerate and bring new players through.

It is a source of great pride to those involved that the Sevens pathway, which provides game-time against some of rugby’s quickest and most skilful players, is also priming some of Ireland’s rising stars to make a splash in 15s.

Out of Ireland’s Bank of Ireland Nations Series squad, Hugo Keenan, Jimmy O’Brien, Nick Timoney and Robert Baloucoune were all Sevens regulars just a few short seasons ago. Tadhg Beirne was part of the original extended Sevens squad in 2015.

Shane Daly and Jack Crowley, who are named on the Ireland ‘A’ panel, have benefited from exposure to international Sevens, as have Cormac Izuchukwu, Andrew Smith and Chay Mullins who were also on the Emerging Ireland tour.

IRFU Performance Director David Nucifora has been championing both the Men’s and Women’s Sevens programmes right from the start, beginning with those Talent Identification Days for the men way back in 2014.

There have been plenty of ups and downs along the way, but to close out the season with a historic World Cup bronze medal was just reward for the heroics of Kennedy and company on the field and the intense competition for places provided by the wider squad.

Speaking at today’s media briefing in Aviva Stadium, Nucifora commented: “For Ireland to win a bronze medal in a Sevens World Cup, it was one of those moments when you sort of see the podium and you see Fiji, New Zealand and Ireland on a Sevens podium…it’s like, ‘Gee, how did that happen?’

“And what a significant moment that was. We were looking back through some of the statistics, and six of the boys that were in that Emerging Ireland squad have spent time passing through that Sevens programme.

That’s getting close to 20% of that programme. So that programme is not just servicing competitive Sevens on the World Series, at World Cups and hopefully in Olympics Games.

“But it’s also doing its job in being able to bring players through in a different manner and a different way, and releasing them back into the 15s programme.

“To be able to do that and achieve what they did down in Cape Town was an unbelievable effort from those boys.”

There is no resting on their laurels as a breakthrough year on the World Series, which saw the Ireland Men reach their first ever Cup final in Toulouse, will lessen in significance if they fail to follow up with qualification for the 2024 Olympics.

“Now that group, and the Women’s group, are working incredibly hard to qualify for the Olympics. The World Series is a qualification series this season, the top four teams will qualify for Paris 2024,” noted Nucifora.

“In the last series the Women finished fourth and the Men finished fifth, so we’re there or thereabouts.

“And then there’s obviously fallback qualification options for us as well, with regards to European avenues to make the Olympics.”


Friday, November 4 –


Ireland v Kenya, Hong Kong Stadium, 3.40pm local time/7.40am Irish time

Saturday, November 5 –


Ireland v Canada, Hong Kong Stadium, 11am local time/3am Irish time

Argentina v Ireland, Hong Kong Stadium, 3.10pm local time/7.10am Irish time

Sunday, November 6 –