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Ireland Universities Women’s Sevens Team Make FISU World Championship Debut

Ireland Universities Women’s Sevens Team Make FISU World Championship Debut

Ireland Universities Women’s Sevens Team Make FISU World Championship Debut

Lily Onilenla breaks clear of the Canadian defence to score Ireland's first try of the tournament in Aix-en-Provence ©Annelyse Lecuyer/FISU World University Championship

A young Ireland Universities Women’s Sevens squad, coached by Neill Alcorn, got their FISU World University Championship Rugby Sevens campaign up and running in Aix-en-Provence earlier today.

The group was selected following on from the IRFU University 7s competition in the spring, and six different home-based universities were represented as the girls in green made their World University Championship debut in France.

Ireland faced two high-ranked opponents in their first two Pool B matches, and Canada and Australia both pulled away in the second half despite some good spells of play from Alcorn’s newly-formed side.

DCU’s Lily Onilenla had the honour of scoring Ireland’s first try at this level, racing clear from her own half for a superb solo effort against Canada. India and host nation France provide the pool opposition on day two, at 12pm and 4pm Irish time respectively.

You can watch live coverage of the FISU World University Championship matches on www.fisu.tv, and you can get all the latest information on the tournament and daily results on the official website here.

It was a tough opening fixture for Ireland as Canada, with a pedigree of three previous FISU World University Championship Rugby Sevens gold medals and two silvers, were determined to maintain that level of performance set by their predecessors.

Alcorn’s charges were able to stick with the Canadians during the early stages, cancelling out a Vanessa Chiappetta try with that brilliant score from Onilenla who picked up a loose pass 65 metres out, glided past two attempted tackles and cruised in under the posts.

Amy Rushton’s conversion drew Ireland level at seven points apiece, before Savannah Bauder broke clear from a ruck to put Canada back in front and added the conversion herself.

A frustrating fifth-minute turnover allowed Angie Olukunmi to raid over from the left wing, making it 21-7. There were some more positives for Ireland before half-time, with Onilenla’s counter-rucking allowing captain Eva Sterritt in for a steal, and Paige Smyth carried powerfully up towards halfway.

Despite Canada losing Bauder to the sin bin for a deliberate knock-on, they were able to extend their lead. Chiappetta scooted over from a scrum to punish an Irish knock-on, and she repeated the trick in the 10th minute to widen the margin to 28 points.

Having played together at the recent EAAST Sevens competition in Haguenau, Canada were that bit quicker off the mark, and a return pass from Bauder put replacement Olivia Sarabura over near the right corner.

Sterritt led by example with her tackling, doing well to bring down Emma Lajeunesse as she headed towards the Irish posts. However, Rhiann Heery saw yellow for a deliberate knock-on, and Canadian replacement Natalie Armatage crossed from her own quick tap for a final scoreline of 45-7.

Gemma Faulkner and Sterritt made some good early yards for Ireland in the Australia game, with scrum half Heery hauled down a few metres short after some nice interplay between Laoise McGonagle and Onilenla.

Crucially though, Australia got the decision at the breakdown and made it back up to halfway, before a pacy break down the right ended with Meg Gemmell touching down behind the posts in the second minute.

It was a tight contest with some strong defence from both sides leading to handling errors and penalties. It remained 7-0 until the UniRoos outfit developed an overlap on the right again, and Gemmell provided the finishing touches to their second converted try.

Connacht winger McGonagle made up a lot of ground to produce an excellent try-saving tackle on April Downey, and Ireland got their attack going again early in the second half. McGonagle offloaded neatly out of a tackle for Sarah O’Donnell to stretch her legs and break past Australia’s 10-metre line.

Smyth also carried twice closer in, but just lacked support after taking a quick tap and Australia countered impressively. Faulkner was sin-binned as the defence came under further pressure, and Indiahna Frawley took advantage of a missed tackle to make it 21-0.

Two late Australian tries gave a lopsided look to the final scoreline (31-0) as Ireland had been competitive throughout. The influential Piper Flynn raced over to the left of the posts from a scrum, and Tess Orton used a strong hand-off to break through inside the final seconds.

IRELAND UNIVERSITIES WOMEN’S SEVENS Squad (2024 FISU World University Championship Rugby Sevens, Stade Maurice David, Aix-en-Provence, France, Monday, June 10-Wednesday, June 12, 2024):

Gemma Faulkner (ATU Galway)
Rhiann Heery (Technological University of the Shannon)
Cara Martin (Dublin City University)
Laoise McGonagle (University of Limerick)
Sarah O’Donnell (Dublin City University)
Aoibhe O’Flynn (University of Limerick)
Lily Onilenla (Dublin City University)
Amy Rushton (SETU Carlow)
Paige Smyth (Ulster University)
Eva Sterritt (University of Exeter/IQ Rugby) (capt)
Lucy Thompson (Ulster University)
Sophie Treanor (Dublin City University)

Ireland Universities Women’s Sevens Management Team:

Head Coach – Neill Alcorn
Team Manager – Katie Fitzhenry
Physio – Naomi Hamilton
S&C – Cormac Murray

IRELAND UNIVERSITIES WOMEN’S SEVENS Schedule – 2024 FISU World University Championship Rugby Sevens:

Monday, June 10 –


CANADA 45 IRELAND 7, Stade Maurice David, Aix-en-Provence
Scorers: Canada: Tries: Vanessa Chiappetta 3, Savannagh Bauder, Angie Olukunmi, Olivia Sarabura, Natalie Armatage; Cons: Savannah Bauder 4, Vanessa Chiappetta
Ireland: Try: Lily Onilenla; Con: Amy Rushton
HT: Canada 21 Ireland 7

Team: Paige Smyth, Eva Sterritt (capt), Aoibhe O’Flynn, Amy Rushton, Gemma Faulkner, Lily Onilenla, Laoise McGonagle.

Replacements used: Sarah O’Donnell, Rhiann Heery, Sophie Treanor, Cara Martin, Lucy Thompson.

AUSTRALIA 31 IRELAND 0, Stade Maurice David, Aix-en-Provence
Scorers: Australia: Tries: Meg Gemmell 2, Indiahna Frawley, Piper Flynn, Tess Orton; Cons: Piper Flynn 3
Ireland: –
HT: Australia 14 Ireland 0

Team: Paige Smyth, Eva Sterritt (capt), Sarah O’Donnell, Rhiann Heery, Gemma Faulkner, Lily Onilenla, Laoise McGonagle.

Replacements used: Amy Rushton, Aoibhe O’Flynn, Cara Martin, Lucy Thompson, Sophie Treanor.

Tuesday, June 11 –


INDIA v IRELAND, Stade Maurice David, Aix-en-Provence, kick-off 1pm local time/12pm Irish time

IRELAND v FRANCE, Stade Maurice David, Aix-en-Provence, kick-off 5pm local time/4pm Irish time

Wednesday, June 12 –