Colm McMahon, coach of the Munster team facing up to some of the finest teams in the world in the Limerick World Club Sevens at Thomond Park on August 9th and 10th, is under no illusions as to the extent of the challenge awaiting them.
The former Shannon and Munster flanker has played for Ireland but acknowledges the Sevens game has not caught on in this country. In contrast, some of the teams coming, from Commonwealth Games champions South Africa to New Zealand, Australia, Fiji and even the United States, concentrate on Sevens in a big way, not least because it will feature for the first time in the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016.
Many countries have a specialised programme in which players just play Sevens all the year round. They go on the circuit and go to the big cities and compete in the IRB World Sevens.
“And that’s where we’ll be under a bit of pressure”, says McMahon. “The game is pretty new to a lot of our guys and we’ll be up against a lot of teams with an impressive background.
“We’ve been tailoring into Munster’s senior sessions and have worked out a system where we get slots when we can take the Sevens guys to the side and do our stuff. It has worked out well so far and we still have two weeks to go.
“Speed and fitness are two key ingredients for a successful Sevens side and in Gerhard Van den Heever and Ronan O’Mahony we have two guys who fit the bill ideally. There are a few more like that in our provisional squad but we can’t confirm who they are until we have clarity from the physios and the medical staff.
“It’s guys with speed and the ability to change direction and pace very quickly that you want so a lot of those you’re looking at are back threes, wings and full-backs.
“But you do need a bit of strength because it can be quite physical in spite of the wide, open spaces when there is a collision or a breakdown. So we’ll have a few big boys as well.”
McMahon smiled at the suggestion that Munster face “a hopeless cause” in this kind of celebrated Sevens company.
“We are feeling our way into it, it’s a little bit of the unknown. The brief I have given the boys is that we are not going to tie ourselves down too much on structure. It’s more a case of letting them out there and trying things themselves because they have a huge amount of ability and the open spaces will suit them and we’ll see how we adapt.
“We’re doing a lot of work and want to put up a good show and be competitive.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved