Ulster duo line out to launch Sevens

HEINEKEN Cup-winning former Ulster stars Andy Ward and Jonathan Bell headed south yesterday to launch the 2010 Heineken Kinsale Sevens in the coastal Cork town last night.

New Zealand-born backorder Ward and Belfast boy Bell, both former Irish internationals who claimed a Heineken Cup with Ulster in 1999, helped kick off the 22nd annual festival, which takes place at Kinsale RFC from May 1-3.

The festival is worth €5 million to the local economy, with around 10,000 players and fans descending on the picturesque town every year.

While recession bit the tournament last year, with the number of teams reduced from 92 to 75, the numbers have swelled once again to 83 for 2010, with France, Holland and South Africa all providing participants.

The tournament is routinely well attended by some of the biggest names in Irish rugby, while Fijian sevens legend Waisale Serevi is among those to have graced the tournament in recent years.

Six Nations Player of the Year Tommy Bowe – the ambassador for kit sponsors Kukri – the latest to confirm he will be present at the Snugmore grounds on the May Bank Holiday weekend.

Bell admitted himself to be “a big advocate” of seven rugby: “It’s a fantastic way for young guys to develop, you just have to look at how much emphasis the southern hemisphere nations place on the sevens game.

“It’s an opportunity to encourage guys to express themselves without having to worry about the defences which dominate the 15-man game.”

Pat Maher, Heineken’s events and sponsorship manager, has been personally associated with the tournament for 21 years, and said this year’s tournament should again be one to remember.

“The Kinsale Sevens is a very well organised and respected rugby sevens festival,” he said.

“The event is a showcase for sports and tourism in Ireland as it celebrates the spirit of rugby with a festival atmosphere. It’s such a well-oiled machine, they don’t do panic and they know what they’re about.”

Kinsale RFC president Ronan Kett highlighted the inclusion of sevens rugby in the 2016 Olympics as a potentially significant boon to the tournament in the forthcoming years. Ward and Bell also spent the morning at Bandon Grammar School, where they held a Q&A forum with a number of the school’s rugby players.

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