The road to the World Cup starts here. It may be several months before the European qualifiers get under way, but Megan Burns knows a good start is half the battle, at least if the Irish women’s Sevens are to take their place on the global stage in South Africa next September.
The 21-year-old Tullamore star landed in Dubai on Monday for the first leg of the World Sevens Series, which begins on Friday after an absence of almost two years. A final-year physiotherapy student at UCD, Burns has been juggling international sport with academics for several years already, making her debut with the Irish senior Sevens in 2018, having previously played at international level underage in both Sevens and 15s.
“At the moment I’m definitely focused on Sevens,” she says. “I haven’t really thought about the 15s.”
Just as well, given the controversy that embroiled that set-up in recent months, with a failure to qualify for the World Cup leading to a very public fallout. IRFU women’s rugby director Anthony Eddy denied that the 15s had been overlooked relative to the Sevens and said those who think that were “wrong”, while hooker Cliodhna Moloney likened his comments to “slurry spreading”.
What did Burns make of it all?
“To be honest, I wasn’t in the 15s programme and I don’t know what happened so for me, I can only look ahead for what the Sevens can bring,” she says. “We’ve regrouped and are just focused on the upcoming World Series. I’ve always loved the Sevens programme, I wouldn’t really be here if I didn’t still enjoy it.”
The Sevens have a new head coach this season in Aiden McNulty, who was appointed on a full-time basis earlier this month after being interim coach for the concluding part of last season. “He brought in new insights, new energy, and that’s what we needed,” says Burns. “I’m excited to have him full-time and see what more he can bring for us and what we can bring back to him.”
The Sevens will welcome back 15s players such as Beibhinn Parsons, Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe, Eve Higgins and Stacey Flood, and Burns says they have “brought more experience and knowledge of the game” to the Sevens set-up.
The goal in Dubai? “It’s getting our performances and playing really well as a team,” she says. “Being happy with our individual performances. If we get them, hopefully our results will come. Getting in the top four will be one of our goals.”
Megan Burns was speaking at the launch of the TritonLake Perform podcast, which will explore the intersection of sport and business and the necessary ingredients to create and maintain a dynamic high-performance culture