The IRFU has big plans for Sevens teams after Olympic qualification

The Ireland team celebrate qualifying for Tokyo 2020 (Image: ©INPHO/Manuel Blondeau)

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The IRFU is setting its sights on qualifying the Irish Men's and Women's Sevens teams for the next two Olympics as the men prepare to make their debut Games appearance on Monday.

Securing the last qualifying place on offer in Monaco last month has given the sport a massive shot in the arm and Irish rugby bosses are keen to capitalise on that success by highlighting the Olympic pathway on offer to players.

Both the Men's and Women's programmes were re-launched in 2015 and IRFU performance director David Nucifora, who was a firm driver of them from the start, believes it will now go from strength to strength.

"The Ireland Men's Sevens team qualifying for the Olympics is a huge opportunity for us to be able to build a sustainable pathway for Sevens Rugby in Ireland," said Nucifora. "The interest that the Olympics will bring gives us the opportunity to be able to grow the game of Sevens throughout the country."

IRFU Performance Director, David Nucifora
(Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan)

The IRFU has launched a 7s Legacy Strategy to develop a clear pathway for the next generation to take up the sport and, aside from aiming to qualify teams for Paris 2024 and LA 2028, the 2026 Youth Olympics is also a target.

"The opportunity created by the Men's Sevens being in the Olympics enables us to be able to connect the domestic participation part of the game for young boys and girls to be able to see an opportunity to follow their Olympic Dreams," Nucifora said.

"Our ambition is to be able to make the game of Sevens a sustainable game within its own right, with the ambition of qualifying our Men's and Women's teams for the 2024 and 2028 Games in Paris and LA and our Men's and Women's U18s teams for the 2026 Youth Olympics in Dakar."

The Men's team coach Anthony Eddy, who is also the IRFU Director of Sevens and Women's Rugby added: "We're focused on leaving a legacy as a result of the team's qualification for Tokyo," he says.

"We want to build a participation pathway for the game of Sevens through the schools and clubs to open up the sport to non-traditional areas and players.

"It is a true pathway for a rugby player and we're striving to get the development part of it right and truly open up the game for all and make it as accessible as possible. We'll see the game grow in Ireland off the back of that.

"Tokyo is on our mind right now but looking towards Paris, it is only a three year turnaround and our ambition is to be there with both our Men's and Women's teams.

"We're hugely excited for what's ahead and know we can achieve all of these goals and ambitions in the years ahead."