Explainer: Everything you need to know about a huge weekend for the Ireland Sevens team
The 2018 Hong Kong Sevens takes place this weekend and the Ireland men’s team will be vying to qualify for next season’s elite circuit by winning the World Series Qualifier.
Core team status for 2019 is the prize on offer for Ireland - who have already qualified for this summer’s Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco - and the eleven other teams who will do battle in the Qualifier.
For Anthony Eddy’s side, captained by former Leinster man Billy Dardis, core team status would mean they would spend the 2018/19 season among the world’s best sevens teams in the World Rugby Sevens Series.
Dardis, as well as wearing the armband, also takes the team’s drop kicks and lineout throws, but he is not the only star man on the team.
Leinster academy has five representatives in the squad including Hugo Keenan, who scored a crucial try in the semi-final win over Russia at the 2017 Moscow Sevens. In the fifteens game, he started every match for Ireland en route to the final of the 2016 World Rugby U20 Championship.
Since the IRFU reinstated their Sevens programme in 2015 the team have improved exponentially, initially facing off against the likes of Lithuania and San Marino, and are now one tournament triumph away from joining the elite.
Ireland have impressed at tournaments all over the world this season in Munich, San Jose and Dubai and can take heart in the fact that Russia, Japan and Spain all have earned their place at the World Series through winning in Hong Kong in recent years.
Robert Baloucoune (Enniskillen/Ballymena/Ulster)
Will Connors (UCD/Leinster)
Shane Daly (Cork Constitution/Munster)
Billy Dardis (UCD) (captain)
Ian Fitzpatrick (Lansdowne/Leinster)
Foster Horan (Lansdowne)
Hugo Keenan (UCD/Leinster)
Terry Kennedy (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)
Harry McNulty (UCD)
Bryan Mollen (Dublin University)
Jimmy O’Brien (UCD/Leinster)
John O’Donnell (Lansdowne)
Mark Roche (Blackrock College)
Ireland v Cook Islands, Hong Kong Stadium, (5.20am GMT)
Ireland v Jamaica, Hong Kong Stadium, (8.18am GMT)
Ireland v Uruguay, Hong Kong Stadium, (2.22am GMT)