After almost two years of waiting, the Ireland men’s sevens will finally get a shot to win themselves the last and final ticket to the Tokyo Olympic Games this July. Ireland is set to compete at the last qualifiers event in Monaco this June19-20 at the World Rugby Sevens Repechage.
The tournament was set to take place one year ago, but the worldwide pandemic outbreak put it on hold as did it to the rest of the sports industry, including the postponement of the 2020 Olympic Games.
Ireland won their spot at the last Repechage by winning the last Rugby Europe Olympic Qualifiers at the Colomiers in July of 2019.
Ireland has unfortunately only been able to comeback to the international scene only in weeks, making their debut at the International Rugby 7s in England and the HPC International 7s on home soil. Nevertheless, Anthony Eddy the IRFU Director of Sevens Rugby is not at all concerned about their lack of game time since the pandemic compared to other teams.
“The playing squad committed some time ago to coming back and preparing for all the tournaments that we thought we were going to have,” Eddy said in an interview.
“The last couple of tournaments – the UK one with Great Britain and the USA, and then the tournament that we just recently hosted ourselves [also against Great Britain] – have been extremely valuable for us.
Two teams that have already qualified for the Olympics. That has been great for us and has just been really good preparation. It would probably have been nice if we had a couple of other tournaments earlier in the season, but they weren’t to be. We played some internal games against each other as well. Considering everything, we’re as prepared as we can be.”
As the Ireland men’s sevens finally qualified for a regular spot at the World Series, it was only natural they make their next goal to be to win a seat at the Olympic Games.
The tournament in Monaco is only a week away and teams are making final preparations to win that last ticket to Tokyo. Teams that Ireland is set to face are Zimbabwe, Mexico, Tonga and Samoa forming the opposition in Pool A.
Eddy admits it wont be an easy breeze to make it to the semi finals as they find themselves in a quality pool.
“Obviously France are going to be tough competition. We know how successful they’ve been in the World Series in recent years. We played Hong Kong in Hong Kong to qualify for the World Series and that’s not an easy game either. Those sorts of teams are always going to provide a different challenge.”
Harry McNulty, made the 14 man squad, the player unlike the rest of the squad who are connected to the All-Ireland League Club is actually a trade from the America’s Major League Rugby with LA Gilitinis.
“We approached him and we also approached the club in LA and they were happy to release Harry, which is fantastic and very nice of them to do. Not everybody gets an opportunity to represent their country and become an Olympian.
“It’s just something that the club looked on as being favorable for Harry. He has been released to us and hopefully he gets what he deserves, and that’s representing his country at the Olympics.”
“Every country has used Sevens to develop players for their 15s game for years and years and years. It’s great that on the back of our Sevens program that we’re seeing some of the benefits of that,” Eddy added.
“To see the likes of Shane and Hugo, Will and Robert Baloucoune. Plenty of others as well that have come through the Sevens program and are now represented in the 15s. There’ll be plenty more to come in the future too, I dare say.”