Ireland has real talent coming through ranks, says former England and New Zealand star
The world had better be ready to sit up and take note of 7s rugby in Ireland in the coming years, according to former England and New Zealand star Henry Paul.
Following the launch of the senior 7s programme last October, both Ireland’s men and women’s teams are one step away from qualification for next year’s Olympic Games in Rio while the latter secured a place in the 2015/2016 World Rugby Sevens Series last weekend.
At the same time, all four Irish provinces were contesting the Limerick World Club Se7ens for the first time with Connacht taking the bragging rights as the highest-place home team as they finished third on Saturday.
Munster also made it to the Plate final at Thomond Park while Leinster beat Ulster to take the Shield title.
In the end it was Fijian side Daveta who took the overall crown, successfully defending their title with victory over invitational side Samurai in the Cup final.
But Samurai coach Paul, who represented New Zealand at rugby league and England in rugby union XVs and 7s, believes it won’t be long before Ireland are challenging the world’s best consistently.
“Irish rugby XVs is number two in the world, so they’re systems and processes are fantastic,” said Paul, who held the world record for the most consecutive successful kicks before seeing Neil Jenkins overtake him.
“I was really surprised for a long time that they didn’t have a 7s team but seeing the four provinces over the last couple of day, 7s rugby is healthy in Ireland.
“There are some good kids coming through, they are learning the tactics well and it has been really nice meeting some of the coaches.
“I think it will be scary for world rugby when they get their act together, which they seem to be doing.
“It would be amazing for Irish rugby and for world rugby if the national 7s team could qualify for the Olympics next year.
“We all love the Irish and we all love the odd tipple, so if they go to the tournament then they will be a threat.
“Seeing Connacht, Munster, Leinster and Ulster over the weekend, there is plenty of talent there.”
In total, 12 teams battled it out to claim top honours in Limerick with sides from America, Canada, France and South Africa also in action.
And with plenty of action going on off the pitch, including a number of street parties in Limerick after the final, Paul admitted he couldn’t have asked for a better first experience of the event.
“The hospitality has been fantastic – it’s my first time at the Limerick World Club 7s and it has been a real eye opener,” he added.
“The way they have set it up and looked after the teams is fantastic, as is the level of competition.
“We lost but we’re not disappointed. We’re glad to be in the final especially as our guys only came together on Wednesday.
“We flew a few guys over from France and had some guys from Portugal so there was a real international flavour to our team as well.
“It was tense and there were mistakes from both sides. Daveta got out into an early lead which meant we had to fight back like we had been doing all day.
“The game came down to the last play and fair play to them, they hustled more than us.”