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Could LA 7s Be Next Big Step for Irish Rugby Sevens?

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Could LA 7s Be Next Big Step for Irish Rugby Sevens?

Ireland finished an entertaining 6th at the 2020 LA 7s. David Barpal photo.

One of the great conundrums of rugby around the world was, for years, that the Irish didn't embrace 7s.

Ireland as a 15-a-side nation played a pretty attractive style of rugby. It wasn't as if they were afraid to run and pass and exploit all the space that manifests when you reduce the number of players by more than half and keep them on the same-size field of 100 meters by 70 meters. With Rugby 7s being a game centered on running free and passing, you'd think Ireland would be a world power.

And then you look at the Sevens World Series. The moveable feast of international rugby is a festival, a rugby party. Those who haven't seen it, especially non-rugby fans, marvel at how fans if different nations comingle, get along, and often start adopting their newfound friends' nation as a second team to cheer for. This is classic Ireland. Irish rugby fans are known worldwide for being great sports—win or lose, the Irish rugby fan will raise a glass to the game.

So it was always a surprise that not only wasn't Ireland a world leader in 7s, they didn't event participate in the World Series.

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Then the Olympics came along.

Ireland, after navigating the delicate issue of a Republic of Ireland team (Ireland, Northern and Republic of, have always played as one nation in rugby), the Irish marched off to try to qualify for the Olympics. They didn't qualify for 2016, but there they were in 2020. Meanwhile, those in the head office realized they could keep the Olympic flame going by doing well at the World Cup in between Olympiads. And, of course, to stay current there you'd need your team playing at a high level all the time.

Ireland now had its World Series team.

We caught up with Billy Dardis of the Irish team at the LA 7s in 2020. At the time, Ireland was still inching its way into the world scene and was targeting the Olympics in Japan. 

In 2019, Dardis said, "we wanted to qualify in Europe," meaning the European Championships. "This year [2020} we have a chance to qualify for the Olympics this summer. It's well in our sights. It's an incredible sport, there's a lot of open play, and we're enjoying it immensely."

Of course they were. They travel the world and celebrate the game. There's open space, as Dardis said, and Irish fans literally everywhere.

So this year, we now see the upshot of all of that renewed enthusiasm. Ireland is ranked #5 in the 2022 World Series. They have finished top four three times; Terry Kennedy leads the World Series by a wide margin with 47 tries and is second in points. 

Ireland, to make it plain, has arrived, and the HSBC Sevens World Series is the better for it.

Having launched themselves into the conversation as a Rugby World Cup 7s dark horse, Ireland will play at the LA 7s August 27-28 in Pool C with Fiji, France, and Wales. Playing in LA is a highly sought-after gig for the Irish players, Dardis said back in 2020.

"America always puts on a great show; we had a great experience at AT&T Park in San Francisco [at the 2018 7s World Cup]; it was incredible," he said. "LA is a great tournament. The fans, the facilities are brilliant, we are really well looked after and we hope we use that to put on a good performance."

Well, they always do.

LA 7s August 27-28 at Dignity Health Sports Park. Buy LA 7s Tickets Here>>