20th – 22nd July, 2018 – AT&T Park, San Francisco, United States
Ireland will be hoping to leave a lasting impression when they launch an audacious bid for the Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018 title in San Francisco this weekend.
This year’s edition of the tournament will feature 24 of the best men’s rugby sevens teams on the planet while the women’s category will see 16 of the finest teams contest for the grand prize.
The tournament, penciled to take place at the AT&T Park in San Francisco’s Bay Area, will see a diversion from the previous pool game system after the structure was remodeled to a knock-out style draw.
Rather than playing the three assured group matches, the new knock-out format will ensured every match is like a final, seeing as a defeat would translate to instant elimination from the main competition. As such, this unequivocally means that teams will be required to win every single match so as to be crowned World Cup winners.
Ireland, ranked sixteenth in the World Cup, will take part in a compulsory match in the preliminary round of 16, as they are seeded outside the top eight which is by all accounts considered the safe haven of the competition.
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The rest of the teams ranked ninth to 24th will likewise take part in an initial knock-out qualifier, while the top eight teams will have more resting time having progressed automatically to the round of 16.
The campaign will nonetheless be a tough ask for the Irish, who face Chile in their opening preliminary round before potentially going against World Series champions South Africa in the last 16, but only if they brush off the South American side.
The Ireland Sevens may be a far cry away from the Blitzboks, but that doesn’t in any way condense the heights they have scaled in recent seasons. Despite entering the lowest tier of Rugby Europe as recently as 2015, the Irish have registered tremendous progress, as they have worked their way up the levels to reach the Grand Prix Series – a fete they achieved last season.
They not only secured a top three finish which saw them qualify for the Rugby World Cup Sevens, but also had a decent run at the World Series qualifying tournament in Hong Kong last April, albeit narrowly losing out in the semi-finals to Japan who went all the way to clinch the title.
The peak of their achievements however came at the London sevens where they sent ripples across the nation by defeating the hosts to secure a third place podium finish.
Stan McDowell’s side caused a major upset by defeating Mike Friday’s USA in the quarter-finals but their journeyman run ended after they were overrun by Fiji in their semi-final clash.
Be that as it may, Ireland who play in the second-tier challenge circuit and were only competing in Twickenham as an invitational side, shocked the hosts with a 21-19 victory in a turgid affair to clinch bronze in the English capital.
It was a groundbreaking achievement by the Irish, certainly one they can build on, considering invitational sides are invariably binned to the Challenge Trophy or 13th place playoff.
Ireland 7s team – Rugby World Cup Sevens
Billy Dardis will skipper the side in San Francisco and will be joined by UCD club-mates Harry McNulty, Hugo Keenan and Jimmy O’Brien. Lansdowne on the other hand have made their fair share of contribution to the Irish team, with representatives in Foster Horan, Ian Fitzpatrick and John O’Donnell.
Greg O’Shea of Shannon comes in for Mark Roche who is ruled out with a fractured leg while Shane Daly, Robert Baloucoune and Bryan Mollen are included in the squad.
Squad: Billy Dardis (Captain, UCD), Robert Baloucoune (Enniskillen/Ballymena/Ulster)
Jordan Conroy (Buccaneers), Shane Daly (Cork Constitution/Munster), Ian Fitzpatrick (Lansdowne), Foster Horan (Lansdowne), Hugo Keenan (UCD/Leinster), Terry Kennedy (St. Mary’s College), Harry McNulty (UCD), Bryan Mollen (Dublin University), Jimmy O’Brien (UCD/Leinster), John O’Donnell (Lansdowne), Greg O’Shea (Shannon).
Overall Ireland Sevens betting prospects
Ireland Sevens are seemingly ready for the challenge that lies ahead, even as they will be staging their first appearance at the Rugby World Cup Sevens after nearly a decade of absence from the competition.
Impressively quantifiable progress in recent seasons may have elevated them all the way to the World Cup, but Ireland have their work cut out, going at +12500 at 5Dimes to lift the Melrose Cup.
Ireland World Cup Fixture
Pre-Round of 16: Ireland vs. Chile Saturday, July 21, 2018 3.35pm Local Time- AT&T Park, San Francisco, United States
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