Seven up? Ireland men's side aiming to push on, insists Andrew Smith

After a third-place spot at the World Cup, James Topping’s Sevens side are determined to build on that success. 
Seven up? Ireland men's side aiming to push on, insists Andrew Smith

DIFFERENT CLASS: Andrew Smith and Jack Kelly at Sevens Squad Training at Dubai English Speaking College this week. Picture: INPHO/Martin Seras Lima

Despite achieving an impressive third-place finish at the World Cup finals in September, Andrew Smith insists there is even more to come from the Ireland Men’s Sevens team.

A current member of the Leinster Academy, Smith was part of a 12-strong selection that surpassed pre-tournament expectations to claim a podium spot in Cape Town.

James Topping’s men aren’t resting on their laurels, however, and will kick-start the second leg of their World Series campaign in Dubai later on today. Ireland are set to face Spain, Uganda and France in Pool C, with the two top teams progressing into tomorrow’s quarter-finals.

The Ireland women’s sevens side are also in Dubai, where Spain, Japan and Fiji are providing the opposition to Aiden McNulty’s charges in the pool stages.

The men’s team have reached a number of important milestones since becoming a core nation in 2019, but there is one more box that Smith would like to tick over the course of the 2022/23 World Series.

“We’ve gathered a really special group in here and James has done a really good job with the programme. I think everyone is just itching to get involved in it and get on the World Series team. Because I think we’re really aiming to do special things and keep building,” Smith explained.

“I think the next ambition of ours is to definitely push for a first-place finish. It’s definitely an ambition of ours as a group.” 

For both this weekend’s action and the Cape Town Sevens that follow it from December 9-11, there will be a notable absentee from the Ireland squad. Although he was recently named World Rugby Men’s Sevens Player of the Year, Terry Kennedy has stepped away from international duty for the time being.

Smith acknowledges he is badly missed within the sevens programme and is hopeful he will return to the fold sooner rather than later.

“He’s a fantastic player. We’re really missing him and we’d gladly have him back any time and he knows that. I think if the opportunity ever comes about for him to come back, we’ll gladly have him back. He’d be a huge boost to the squad, because he’s such a special player.” 

Smith was himself marked absent for the opening leg of the World Series in Hong Kong last month, when Ireland finished seventh in the final standings. This was due to the fact he was back training with Leinster and went on to feature for the province in a friendly victory over Chile.

Smith has made two competitive appearances to date under Leo Cullen at Leinster and the 22-year-old winger very much remains a part of the Wicklow man’s long-term plans.

“There’s a lot of conversations being had and it’s just a matter of finding the right game time and taking an opportunity when I get it. The whole conversation is really finding the best opportunity to get some game time and push my 15s career on,” Smith added.

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