Olympic hopes at stake as Irish Sevens up for battle in Lisbon

The Irish men’s and women’s Sevens sides will be hoping to keep their Olympic dreams alive this weekend, when both squads travel to Lisbon for the Rugby Europe Olympic Repechage tournament.

Olympic hopes at stake as Irish Sevens up for battle in Lisbon

In order to ensure their progression into next year’s World Repechage, a top-three finish will be required from both teams in the Portuguese capital.

A series of comprehensive triumphs has helped the men to secure the Rugby Europe Division B & Division C Cups in recent weeks, but as IRFU Director of Rugby Sevens Anthony Eddy explained at the Aviva Stadium yesterday, this weekend’s tournament will be their toughest assignment to date.

“The next stage of competition for the men in Lisbon will be extremely difficult. The men probably have progressed through Divisions B and C in the European competition pretty easily, but this weekend will be a massive step up for them with teams such as Russia, Portugal, Germany and Lithuania, who’ve been playing on the Grand Prix series and have good sevens experience,” Eddy remarked.

The men have been drawn in Pool A of the competition with Russia, Georgia and Italy, while their female counterparts will come against Romania, Belgium and Ukraine in a difficult Pool B.

Their recent performances in Rugby Europe competitions offers the women’s side (who are captained by Rathdrum’s Lucy Mulhall) a strong indication of what they will face in Lisbon, and with a World Rugby Women’s Sevens tournament taking place in UCD next month, Eddy is hopeful that they can gain a place on the 2016 World Series.

“The women have an opportunity to do that [qualify for World Series] in the tournament in Dublin in August. If we finish in the top two of that, we’ll get back on the World Series, which gives them the exposure to the international competition that’s probably required if you want to compete on the world stage.” As coach of both teams, Eddy is fully aware that patience is required as Ireland aims to move up the Rugby Sevens ladder. However, if qualification for the 2016 Rio Olympics was to be achieved, he believes that it could have a major impact on the game in Ireland.

“We’ve just started from scratch and we’ve been pretty patient about what we want to do.

“It is a long process to develop that culture, but ideally, if we do get one team to the Olympics, that’s an enormous benefit for us and will create a lot of interest in the game in Ireland.” Leinster centre Tom Daly will lead the 12-strong men’s selection into battle on Saturday and Sunday, and although he is fully aware that it will be a major step up in class from the previous tournaments they have competed in, he is confident that they can rise to the occasion.

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