Ireland face a difficult task today in the opening session of the 2009 Rugby World Cup Sevens in Dubai when they face Samoa, regularly seeded as one of the top four, in the first of their three pool games.
Manager Hugh McCaughey, knows that it is a hard ask for Ireland given his side’s absence from the global game since the last World Cup four years ago in Hong Kong.
“We know it will be an uphill struggle simply because we played much less sevens rugby than our opponents” said Ulsterman, McCaughey, whose side had to go through a qualifying process last summer to reach the finals in Dubai.
Four years ago Ireland failed to qualify for the quarter finals of the Cup, but McCaughey is confident that year the Irish side is ready to take on the big boys of sevens rugby. “I think that the preparation this time round is much better. Our coach, John Skurr, knows his sevens and has played on the world circuit” stated McCaughey.
The world circuit in question is the IRB World Sevens Series, of which Ireland is currently not a member, unlike celtic cousins Wales and Scotland. But Ireland were able to measure their worth in the qualifying tournament last summer.
“We just lost by 14-12 to Portugal and don’t forget that the Portugese beat Samoa in George this season” observed McCaughey, adding : “I’d be disappointed if we didn’t spring a few surprises”.
Ireland, who are in the same pool as Portugal and Samoa as well as Australia, are one of 24 teams in these World Cup finals. The qualifiers for the Cup quarter finals will be the six pool winners and the two best (based on pool points and points difference) runners-up.
“I don’t think there’s much between the teams in our pool so establishing a good points difference could be difficult” warned McCaughey, who believes his side all-round pace and talent to worry other sides. The tournament, of course, represents an opportunity for young players to make their mark on the world stage, in which context Ulster scrum half Paul Marshall will be eager to seize his chance.
Ireland open against highly ranked Samoa today and tomorrow (Fri) play Australia before completing their pool matches with the all-important game against Portugal.
Ireland Sevens squad: Gary Brown (Blackrock College - Leinster), Kieran Campbell ( Galwegians - Connacht) (capt), Brian Carney (Clonakilty - Munster), James Coughlan (Dolphin - Munster), Conan Doyle (Garryowen - Munster), Tom Gleeson (Cork Constitution - Munster), Eoghan Grace (Shannon - Munster), Felix Jones (Old Belvedere - Leinster), Paul Marshall (Belfast Harlequins - Ulster), Daniel Riordan (Buccaneers - Connacht), Kyle Tonetti (Blackrock College - Leinster), Brian Tuohy (Cornish Pirates)
Men: Pool A New Zealand, Tonga, Arabian Gulf, Italy Pool B Fiji, France, USA, Georgia, Pool C South Africa, Scotland, Canada, Japan Pool D Samoa, Australia, Portugal, Ireland Pool E England, Kenya, Tunisia, Hong Kong Pool F Argentina, Wales, Zimbabwe, Uruguay
Women: Pool A Australia, Netherlands, France, China Pool B England, Japan, Russia, USA Pool C Canada, Brazil, Spain, Thailand Pool D New Zealand, South Africa, Italy, Uganda