Rugby: Ireland impress, with eyes on World Cup and 2016 Olympics
Update (25th May 2012 at 3:55pm): The squad for this weekend’s Rugby Rocks tournament has now been announced.
Ireland’s Claire Molloy lifts the Heineken Boot trophy
at Amsterdam Sevens 2012
Since the announcement of the Irish seven-a-side team structures in women’s rugby, players from the national squad have togged out for tournaments in Kinsale and Amsterdam. Next up in the hectic summer schedule will be the Rugby Rocks meeting in London, followed by a packed June month beginning with the Bournemouth Sevens competition, before the real work begins at World Cup Qualifiers taking place in Ghent and Moscow.
The Amsterdam Sevens took place last weekend, where the team (playing as Irish Lightning) had their first real taste of international competition as a sevens side. The results were revealing and indicated a steep but definite learning curve for the players.
In their pool, Pool B, they faced three teams on Saturday: Canada, Spain and France. They lost to the dominant Canadians, and to Spain who are an experienced team in the sevens format. The points scored, however, were racking up for the team. Ireland’s third meeting was against France, where they won comfortably.
Canada 15-5 Ireland
Scores: Amy Davis (try)
Spain 19-10 Ireland
Scores: Claire Molloy (try); Amy Davis (try)
France 12-19 Ireland
After Saturday’s games, the tournament rules said that the top 6 teams would play it out on Sunday for the final spots. Ireland came a respectable 7th overall on Saturday. The remainder of Saturday’s teams would play for the Heineken Boot – which Ireland won, winning three out of three games, including once again defeating France, this time by a slim margin in a game that remained scoreless until the second half. (Revenge for the Six Nations, perhaps?)
Team manager, Gemma Crowley, tweeted a photo of the team looking pleased as punch:
Roll on many more wins for the Irish Ladies lockerz.com/s/210477353
— Gemma Crowley (@gemmacrowley) May 20, 2012
Germany 12-17 Ireland
Scores: Lynne Cantwell (try); Alison Miller (try; con); Joy Neville (try)
Wales 26-0 Ireland
France 5-7 Ireland
Heineken Boot Cup Final (for 7th/8th place overall in the tournament)
Scores: Lynne Cantwell (try); Ashleigh Baxter (con)
Ireland and sevens rugby
Recently, it was announced that rugby would be included as an Olympic sport, with the first such fixtures taking place during the Rio Games in 2016. The format for Olympic rugby will be seven-a-side, not fifteen-a-side.
So, the IRFU’s decision (whatever about the timing and bonkers busy schedule) to put together a women’s 7s team may not be all that surprising, especially after the unprecedented levels of support and publicity that the Ireland squad received during this year’s Six Nations.
The World Cup 2013 and Rio Olympics 2016
On the one hand, there’s the importance and prestige of the Olympics. Just look at the response to Katie Taylor’s recent qualificaiton for London 2012. The flurry of 7s tournaments taking place this spring and summer are therefore ideal testing grounds for new and experienced players to get used to – and be assessed for – this new format.
(Unfortunately for the men, they appear to have been omitted from 7s rugby. But, hey, they’re well looked after as it is, so they can fight that battle themselves!)
All of this frenetic 7s activity (and more) is to prepare an Irish 7s team for the 7s World Cup in Moscow next year. The real test will come in June where from the 8th to the 10th the side will have to finish first or second in the FIRA qualifying tournament in Ghent, Belgium, where Ireland is in Group B. If they get through that, the team will then need to finish in the top five European teams in Moscow at the the next round of qualifiers at the end of June.
On the other hand, the 7s format may achieve more than (hopefully) Olympic and World Cup glory. Before the announcement of the 7s structures and pathways, the Ireland players (as at 15s side) would not have trained or played together as a team until the next Six Nations championship, a full year later. This is what happened between the Six Nations 2011 and 2012.
With this new squad, however, there is greater opportunity for more players (the original 7s training camp had 65 players participating) to gain more experience and develop skills, and to play competitively as a team. In other words, the benefit will be to both the 7s and 15s squads, and increases the possibilities available to younger players coming up through schools and universities.
The effect, hopefully, will be to make Ireland a more competitive force against dominant sides such as England, New Zealand, USA and Canada, where the pool of players is far greater and the women’s game more developed.
Check out our What’s On calendar for fixtures and dates!
Ireland Sevens schedule 2012:
26th-27th May: Camp (21 players) & Rugby Rocks
1st-3rd June: Bournemouth Sevens (12 players)
8th-10th June: FIRA Qualifiers, Ghent (12 players)
23rd June: Camp (14 players)
28th June-1st July: FIRA Qualifiers, Moscow (12 players)
Previously in the Ireland Sevens schedule 2012:
6th April: Interprovincial Competition/Screening (65 players)
13th-28th April: Weekend training camps (21 players)
4th-6th May: Kinsale Sevens (12 players)
12th-13th May: Camp (21 players)
18th-20th May: Amsterdam Sevens (12 players)