Ireland Sevens boss Anthony Eddy targeted qualification for Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics as the next step for the national men’s squad following its success at the annual World Series qualifier in Hong Kong yesterday.
With their 28-7 tournament final victory over the hosts in front of 40,000 people at the Hong Kong Stadium, Ireland secured a place as one of 15 core teams on the 10-round HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2020.
Tries from Harry McNulty and Greg O’Shea, both converted by captain Billy Dardis, gave Ireland a 14-0 lead at the break before the player of the tournament Jordan Conroy claimed his 10th try of the weekend at the start of the second-half, with Terry Kennedy adding his side’s fourth try, Dardis kicking both second-half conversions.
Eddy, IRFU director of Sevens Rugby, said the qualifier series victory, which saw Ireland beat Germany in the semi-final earlier in the day, opened the door for Irish Sevens players to compete against the best in the world on a regular basis throughout 2020.
“I think it gives the Ireland Sevens programme a real boost,” Eddy said. “We’ve already shown what a pathway it can bring to players to progress to the XVs and provincial teams and now this gives other players an opportunity to be on the world stage continually around the World Series and another pathway to play in the green jersey and represent their country.” Success was also a reward, said Eddy, for the heartache of losing to Japan in the world series qualifier semi-final in Hong Kong 12 months earlier.
“This is great. We had a go last year, didn’t quite make it, and the boys have worked really hard over the last 12 months. They thoroughly deserved their victory and a spot in the World Series,” he said. “We lost a couple of boys through injury earlier in the week so 10 players toughed it out for the last two days. They look after each other, they work hard for each other, they’re a good bunch of friends.”
Ireland captain Dardis had recovered from a stomach bug to play the semi and final yesterday and he said: “We’re just delighted. It’s been a long and hard road. I think that we all just stood on the pitch there and couldn’t move. We’re just speechless. It won’t sink in for a couple of weeks.”
Ireland’s men will get another taste of World Series action before 2020 when they return to London as an invitational side on May 25-26 and then Paris the following weekend. They made the most of their invite last year when claiming the bronze medal at Twickenham and this year the tournaments will provide excellent preparation ahead of the European regional qualification tournament for Tokyo 2020 in France on July 13-14.
“We’ll definitely target London and Paris,” Eddy said, “they’re two great tournaments close to home as well, which makes things better. We’ve also got Olympic qualification through Rugby Europe after those tournaments so we’ll use those tournaments hopefully as good preparations for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualification process.”