Ireland 7s Men’s team are one of twelve sides taking part in the European Olympic Qualifiers this weekend in Colomiers, France.

The twelve teams come from the pre qualifying tournaments organized by Rugby Europe as follows:

  • 9 countries from the Rugby Europe Men’s Sevens Grands Prix in Moscow: France, Ireland, England, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Russia and Georgia
  • 2 countries from the Rugby Europe Men’s Trophies Series (Zagreb and Zenica): Ukraine and Lithuania
  • The winner of the Rugby Europe Sevens Conference (Belgrade): Hungary

The teams are divided into 3 pools according to their respective ranking following the pre qualifying tournaments.

POOL A POOL B POOL C
FRANCE IRELAND ENGLAND*
PORTUGAL SPAIN GERMANY
ITALY RUSSIA GEORGIA
HUNGARY UKRAINE  LITHUANIA

* England are representing Team GB for this Olympic Qualifier

How does it work?

It’s pool play on Day 1 with the top two sides in each pool and the two best 3rd placed sides going into the Cup quarter finals on Day 2. 

The winner of the Cup competition will  quality for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The teams finishing  2nd and 3rd will participate in the World Repechage tournament organized by World Rugby in June 2020.

Who are the main contenders?

France, Spain and England* all compete in the men’s World Rugby Sevens Series and comfortably have the most experience at the highest level.

Ireland have been on a two year qualification campaign for the World Series, which they achieved in at the Hong Kong Sevens in April. They did well in the two World Series events they were subsequently invited to compete in, and they finished second in the pre qualifier European Grand Prix where they finished second to France. 

On current form, France and Ireland appear to be favourites for top spot with Spain and England* battling it out for the 3rd place. However it is far from clear cut. 

How have Ireland performed against these sides? 

With Ireland only competing in the World Series in the last two rounds and with 16 sides in the men’s series there have been few meeting between  Ireland and the other three fancied sides. 

Over the last season Ireland have met England* twice in the World Series and they won both matches. They met Spain once, in the Moscow Grand Prix, and won that game. However, Ireland lost twice to France in the same tournament, their only meetings this season. 

Who are Ireland likely to face? 

Like the women’s side, Ireland men have been drawn against their Spanish counterparts in the pool stages. 

And, also like the women, there is a chance they could meet Spain again in the third place play off. 

However, with there only being four really competitive sides in the men’s competition, and with England* in a bit of disarray, the pool game against Spain is really the one to win as it gives a much easier route to the final, avoiding France all the way to that last game. 

If Ireland win that pool game and top their group they will likely face Italy in the quarter final and the winner of England* v Portugal in the semi final.  

If Ireland finish second in their group they will likely face Germany in the quarter final and France in the semi final. 

Will Ireland Qualify?

Ireland have a fair chance of winning this one and qualifying for Tokyo 2020. However, they are going to have to beat France at some stage and, with France at home, the odds are heavily in the hosts favour. 

Of course they could also be derailed by Spain, who like their women’s side, tend to kick it up a notch for these types of competitions, and no one really knows what sort of fame of mind England* are going to be in especially as the RFU appears to have fallen out of love with the 7s game. 

England* were comfortably the best European performers in the World Series until the last couple of rounds and if their heads are in the right place they could be the most difficult opponents of all. 

It makes it all very intriguing and no one will feel overly confident until they see what sort of England* turn up. 

However, on balance, I would say that Ireland would be disappointed if they didn’t make the final. This would guarantee at least a place in the final Olympic Repechage in June 2020.  

Player to watch? 

The Ireland men’s squad is shown below.

Foster Horan and Hugo Keenan both return from injury and on paper this looks like the strongest panel available. 

Captain Billy Dardis, Terry Kennedy and Mark Roche have all impressed this season but the man to watch still has to be the Tullamore flier Jordan Conroy who should be the fastest man at this tournament. 

Good luck to all the players #COYBIG

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