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'Hopefully I can put my hand up for selection when I get back to Leinster'

Andrew Smith is now with Emerging Ireland after winning a bronze medal at the World Cup 7s.

Smith has been excellent for the Ireland 7s.
Smith has been excellent for the Ireland 7s.
Image: Martin Seras Lima/INPHO

HAVING HELPED IRELAND to a bronze medal at the Rugby World Cup 7s in South Africa last month, Andrew Smith took a week-and-a-half holiday in Botswana, flew back to Ireland, had a couple of hours at home, then headed into camp with Emerging Ireland.

A few days later, he was on a plane back to South Africa and today, he starts on the left wing in the second game of this tour against the Pumas in Bloemfontein [KO 4pm Irish time, SuperSport livestream].

It has been a whirlwind time for 22-year-old Leinster academy wing Smith, who spent the vast majority of last season with the Ireland 7s and became a key figure in the squad that claimed bronze.

“It was a massive ambition of ours to get a medal,” says Smith, who also featured for Clontarf as they claimed their AIL title back in May.

“It was a massive squad effort and one we’re really proud of. Personally, it’s a nice reward coming into a camp like this and showing our efforts have paid off.”

His fellow World Cup 7s star Chay Mullins is also with Emerging Ireland and they’ll be keen to demonstrate that their experiences in the seven-man code have made them better 15s players.

“My fitness has definitely been a massive factor,” said Smith of what he feels has improved during his time in 7s. 

“Passing and small one-on-one details like the breakdown, your tackle efficiency. Hopefully, I can show what I’ve learned in the game on Wednesday.”

Smith wasn’t around the Leinster set-up very often last season, getting back only for short periods in between Ireland 7s camps, but he has been capped at senior level by his province.

andrew-smith Smith has two caps for Leinster so far. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

He got a debut on the left wing against Connacht in January 2021 and came off the bench against the Sharks two months later. He now hopes to follow in the footsteps of Hugo Keenan, who returned from the Ireland 7s to enjoy a remarkable rise in 15s.

Not that Smith is turning his back on 7s for good. He wants to keep his options open, with the 2024 Olympics in Paris an obvious attraction in the 7s game.

“Most players would love to go after it and get to an Olympics, so it’s definitely in my mind that I’d love to become an Olympian,” says Smith. “And with that group of players, it’s a really special group and I love playing with them.

“So, it’s definitely on my mind and if there’s a way to make that work, I’d love to be involved in it.”

He is well regarded within Leinster, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Smith make big strides with the province this season. Their back three stocks aren’t particularly deep and the former Ireland U20 wing has lots of interesting qualities.

His ability to produce spectacular, rugby league-style finishes in the corner is chief among them. Smith explained that this penchant for acrobatics close to the touchline started during his school days at St Michael’s College.

“I think I can probably thank Andy Skehan [St Michael's director of rugby] for that. It’s something he was really big on in school, his attention to detail on position-specific skills.

“We would practice wingers finishing in the corner and that was a massive help, seeing those pictures. From there, I added to it and you get a good feel for it. Andy Skehan is the main one.

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andrew-smith-goes-past-roan-frostwick-to-score Smith impressed for the Ireland U20s in 2020. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“It was just going against one defender who would try to smash you as hard as he could to get you out of play while you try to finish. That was one drill we used. You need to soften some of the falls, so we would use padding to make it a bit safer. The idea stays the same and it was something I was able to add to my game.”

Smith is hoping for a few opportunities to show off those finishing skills against the Pumas in South Africa today.

A good impression with this Emerging Ireland team and Smith would be carrying plenty of confidence back to Leinster.

“The tour probably couldn’t have come at a better time for me because transitioning back, you don’t know when your next game with Leinster could be,” says Smith.

“So for me personally, the timing was great and hopefully I can put in a couple of good performances here and then put my hand up for selection when I get back to Leinster.

“The plan for me this season is definitely to get a couple of more caps and maybe even solidify a position regularly.”

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