Rugby: Now the real work begins to get to the World Cup
Sophie Spence fends off a Welsh tackle during the Six Nations 2012
There was heartbreak for Ireland’s football squad last week, when the team crashed out of the Euro 2013 qualifying stages.
Things look a lot better for the national 7s rugby side, however, who have been almost unbeatable since the seven-a-side team was formed just a few short months ago.
To get to this weekend’s World Cup qualifiers in Moscow, Ireland had to make it through the recent European Championship fixtures in Ghent. And make it through they did, racking up 242 points in six matches over two days, without conceding a single point. (I think the technical term for that is, “Pooing all over the opposition”.)
Now the real work begins, however. Ireland are placed in a pool with the Netherlands, Italy and Switzerland. According to ScrumQueens, Ireland and the Netherlands are favourites to top the pool, but Italy could cause some upset. Ireland’s toughest battle looks set to be when they face the Netherlands.
To get to the World Cup, which is exactly 365 days away, Ireland must rank among the top five teams in the tournament.
While most of us in Dublin will be making final preparations for the Pride parade on Saturday morning, the squad will be opening their campaign morning with a game against Italy who are ranked sixth going into the European Championship. Ireland’s second game of the day will see them face the Netherlands, who are the third-ranked team in the event, and the final game of the day later that evening will see Ireland face off against Switzerland.
After these pool stages, Ireland has been paired with Pool D (France, Russia, Wales and Moldova) to battle it out for the Cup/Bowl/Plate.
Speaking before the tournament, head coach John Skurr said:
We are really looking forward to going to Moscow and stepping our game up to the next level. We began our Sevens journey only 11 weeks ago and the commitment that the ladies have shown has been instrumental in noticeable improvements in our skill levels.
We go into this tournament having come off the back of winning the first qualifying tournament in Belgium without conceding a point. However, we have no doubt that there are a lot of top quality teams both from a traditional and non-traditional rugby culture who will be competing in Moscow.
All of the players are excited about getting the opportunity to play in the tournament and are looking forward to bringing the Irish spirit to Moscow.
Captain Claire Molloy believes that Ireland can reach the top five in the weekend’s tournament and make it to next year’s World Cup, saying:
At the start of the programme, we set out our goals which included qualifying for the WRWC in 2013. It is not going to be an easy goal to achieve as there are some top class rugby teams competing [this weekend] in Moscow.
However, I believe that the quality of players that we have along with the progression that we have made over the last number of months will help us to be successful in qualifying.
Ireland’s pool fixtures:
Saturday, 30th June
11:06am – Italy v Ireland
1:50pm – Netherlands v Ireland
4:34pm – Switzerland v Ireland
Alison Miller (Portlaoise/Connacht)
Amy Davis (Blackrock/Leinster)
Ashleigh Baxter (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster)
Ashling Hutchings (UL Bohemians/Munster)
Claire Keohane (UL Bohemians/Munster)
Claire Molloy (Bristol/Connacht) (capt)
Jeannette Feighery (UL Bohemians/Munster)
Jennifer Murphy (Richmond/Exiles)
Joy Neville (UL Bohemians/Munster)
Lynne Cantwell (Richmond/Exiles)
Niamh Kavanagh (UL Bohemians/Munster)
Sophie Spence (Sharks/ Exiles)
- ScrumQueens explainer and preview A
- ScrumQueens explainer and preview B (Ireland’s pool)
- IRB Rugby World Cup Sevens
- FIRA/AER European Championship 2012
- World Cup Sevens Qualifying Tournament