Irish rugby looks to 2013 World Cup with new women's sevens team
Wednesday, 11 April 2012
April 11 - Ireland is set to form a women's rugby sevens team in an attempt to qualify for the 2013 World Cup in Moscow next year – despite the deadline for doing so having almost passed.
The Emerald Isle still has time to enter the Association of European Rugby (FIRA) tournament this summer as part of its plan to make next year's World Cup, which the majority of countries are set to use as a platform to build towards the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Should Ireland compete this year, it would mark the first time an official Irish women's sevens team has taken to the field in five years; on that occasion Ireland won the Plate competition at the FIRA-AER 2007 European Championship Top 10 after beating Italy.
The announcement came from Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) President Patrick Hickey, who is very confident about the possibility of Irish rugby sevens medals in 2016.
"I think we could do very, very well," he said.
The OCI announcement coincided with the appointment, by the Ireland Rugby Football Union (IRFU), of Jon Skurr as women's team coach.
The former men's coach will take change of a squad of 21 yet to be confirmed players who will compete in three tournaments ahead of the European World Cup qualifiers in June.
It will be a steep learning curve for a team that has little experience of international sevens.
The team will take the field together for the first time at the Kinsale Sevens in early May before squaring up to some of the best teams in the world in Amsterdam later in the month and completing its their warm-up preparations at Bournemouth at the beginning of June.
The following weekend Ireland will travel to Gent to begin its attempt to qualify for the World Cup.
Ireland's 15s captain, Fiona Coghlan (pictured above), believes that some of her team could move to the shorter format of the game.
"We have some girls in our squad, like Ashleigh Baxter, Claire Molloy, Niamh Kavanagh and Jennifer Murphy, who would make super sevens players," she said.
However, before Ireland can make plans to take on the world's leading sevens teams, such as Canada, Australia and England, it must start at the bottom.
As the last European entrant, Ireland would be seeded 35th of the 35 nations in the continent's World Cup qualification process and must begin its campaign with games against Czech Republic, Belgium, Poland, Israel and Scotland; the Scots are also returning to the sevens game after a long break.
Ireland will have to battle its way through this pool and reach the final – and only then will it be able to compete with the continent's major teams in Europe's final qualifier at the end of the month.