IRFU Director of Sevens Rugby Anthony Eddy and Coach Stan McDowell have confirmed an extended Men’s 7s squad who will commence training during the month of May ahead of the Rugby Europe Grand Prix beginning in June.
The Ireland Men’s 7s will compete in the Rugby Europe Grand Prix for the first time this season, having won the Rugby Europe Sevens Trophy last year.
Six Connacht-based players are included with Jordan Conroy, Shane Layden, Adam Leavy, Conor Lowndes, Ed O’Keeffe and Josh Rowland all named in the squad.
Working from the Ireland Rugby 7s base on Lansdowne Road, the squad will prepare for the series where they will play teams from across Europe, including the likes of England, Scotland, Wales, France and Russia – who are all currently competing on the World Rugby World Sevens Series.
There are two big opportunities for the Irish 7s side this season. They will be looking to claim a place at the Hong Kong 7s Repechage next year, where the winner of that tournament will qualify for the World Rugby Sevens World Series for the 2018/19 season. They can achieve this by finishing as one of the top two placed sides (outside of those who are not already a core team on the series) over the course of the Grand Prix.
The second big opportunity is qualification for the Sevens Rugby World Cup in San Francisco next summer.
The Rugby Europe Grand Prix offers two places to nations outside of those who are already pre-qualified from the 2013 Moscow World Cup or via this season’s World Series.
The European sides who have already qualified are England, Wales and France, while Scotland look set to gain a spot via this season’s World Series.
Russia are the only European side on the Series who are outside of automatic qualification, so they, along with the likes of Spain, Germany, Portugal and Georgia look set to be Ireland’s main competition for the top two places.
The squad brings together players from a range of rugby backgrounds including provincial academy players, club players and dedicated 7s players.
Will Connors, Shane Daly, Hugo Keenan, Terry Kennedy and Jimmy O’Brien were all part of Ireland U20s squad that were runners up at the U20 World Championship last season.
The likes of Aaron Cairns, Ian Fitzpatrick, Adam Leavy, Rowland and Nick Timoney have all played with their provincial “A” side this season, with Cairns and Timoney and Rowland also making appearances in the Guinness PRO12 with their respective provinces.
Conroy, who scored 18 tries for his club Buccaneers in the Ulster Bank League this season and was recently awarded Connacht Club Player of the Year is included, as is his Buccs’ team-mate Layden.
Layden is one of seven players in the squad who competed at the Olympic Repechage in Monaco last season, the others being Fitzpatrick, Rowland, UCD’s Billy Dardis and Harry McNulty, Clontarf’s Mick McGrath, and Steve Toal-Lennon, who is currently focusing solely on 7s rugby.
Speaking on the squad announcement, Anthony Eddy said: “We’re very happy with the squad that we’ve selected for what will be a busy summer of Sevens rugby.
“The group is very much focused and they understand the challenges ahead – they are very ambitious and we will be working hard to achieve our goals for the season
“We’ve seen the how the game of sevens can benefit players in the fifteens game, with the likes of Adam Byrne, Rory O’Loughlin, Barry Daly and Tom Daly in Leinster and Dan Goggin and Alex Wootton in Munster all progressing well at their provinces, having been a part of the sevens programme last season.”
The first round of the Rugby Europe Grand Prix takes place in Moscow on the 3rd and 4th June and Ireland will face Wales, Germany and Georgia in Pool A.
Ireland Men’s 7s Squad
David Busby (Ballynahinch/Ulster)
Aaron Cairns (Ballynahinch/Ulster)
Fionn Carr (Naas)
Will Connors (UCD/Leinster)
Jordan Conroy (Buccaneers)
Shane Daly (Cork Con/Munster)
Billy Dardis (UCD)
Evan Dixon (Dublin University)
Ian Fitzpatrick (Lansdowne/Leinster)
Ned Hodson (Cork Con/Munster)
Foster Horan (Lansdowne)
Hugo Keenan (UCD/Leinster)
Conor Kelly (Queens University/Ulster)
Terry Kennedy (St. Mary’s/Leinster)
Shane Layden (Buccaneers)
Adam Leavy (Galwegians/Connacht Academy)
Conor Lowndes (Galwegians/Connacht Academy)
Mick McGrath (Clontarf)
Steve McMahon (Garryowen/Munster)
Harry McNulty (UCD)
Bryan Mollen (Dublin University)
Jimmy O’Brien (UCD/Leinster)
John O’Donnell (Lansdowne)
James O’Donovan (Trinity)
Edward O’Keeffe (Galwegians/Connacht Academy)
Greg O’Shea (Shannon/Munster)
Mark Roche (Lansdowne)
Josh Rowland (Galwegians/Connacht)
Tom Stapley (Ballynahinch)
Nick Timoney (Queens University/Ulster)
Steve Toal-Lennon (Exile)
Rugby Europe Grand Prix:
May 3rd /4th – Moscow
June 10/11th – Lodz
July 1st/2nd – St. Etienne
July 15th/16th – Exeter