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This weekend sees Ireland get a final shot at qualifying for the Olympic 7s

Both the Ireland men and women face qualifying tournaments over the next two weekends.

Updated Wednesday 15.00

IRELAND’S MEN’S SEVENS team will be part of this weekend’s Olympic repechage qualifying tournament, when they will have their final shot at securing a place in this summer’s Rio Olympics.

Tom Daly with Lucy Mulhall Ireland men's 7s captain Tom Daly with women's captain Lucy Mulhall. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Ireland were buoyed by victory in last weekend’s first leg of the Rugby Europe Men’s Sevens Trophy in Sweden, but they remain heavy underdogs to qualify for the Olympics this weekend.

The repechage tournament takes place this Saturday 18 June and Sunday 19 June at the Stade Louis II in Monaco, when top seeds Samoa will attempt to take the final qualification spot for the Rio Games.

Favourites Samoa – who won the Paris 7s last month – are joined in this weekend’s tournament by fellow HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series sides Canada and Russia.

With Samoa, Zimbabwe and Tonga in their pool, the challenge for Ireland is a daunting one. Two teams will advance from each pool into the quarter-finals, from where it will be knock-out rugby straight into the final.

The victor of that final will join hosts Brazil, Fiji, Great Britain, New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina, USA, France, Japan, Australia and Kenya in the 2016 Olympic Sevens in August.

It’s an outside shot for Anthony Eddy, Stan McDowell and James Topping’s side but last weekend was a hugely positive one for the men’s programme as Ireland were convincing winners of the first leg of the Rugby Europe Men’s Sevens Trophy in Malmo.

Having won the European Division C and Division B titles last summer, Ireland will attempt to secure the the second leg of the Trophy in Prague on 2 and 3 July.

Dan Goggin Young Munster man Dan Goggin was among the tries in Malmo. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Victory there would see Ireland qualify for the 2017 Rugby Europe Men’s Sevens Grand Prix Series, which is a far stronger standard of sevens rugby and involves teams from England, Scotland and Wales.

Qualification into the Grand Prix Series would move Ireland one step close to their eventual goal of being promoted into the top-tier World Sevens Series.

Last weekend saw Ireland hammer hosts Sweden 57-0 in the final of the first leg of the Trophy competition. St. Mary’s man Steve Toal-Lennon scored a hat-trick in the final, while UCD’s Barry Daly bagged a brace and captain Tom Daly, Harry McNulty of UCD, Lansdowne’s Ian Fitzpatrick and Young Munster centre Dan Goggin also dotted down. Billy Dardis contributed six conversions for Ireland.

The first-leg victory leaves Ireland with a maximum 20 series points and they will attempt to wrap up promotion into the Grand Prix Series in the Czech Republic next month.

This weekend, however, the focus will be on giving their unlikely shot at Olympics qualification everything they have.

Ireland men’s 7s squad

Adam Byrne – UCD / Leinster
Tom Daly – Lansdowne FC / Leinster
Barry Daly – UCD
Billy Dardis – UCD / Leinster
Ian Fitzpatrick – Lansdowne FC / Leinster
Dan Goggin –Young Munster / Munster
Shane Layden – Buccaneers
Mick McGrath – Clontarf FC
Harry McNulty – UCD
Josh Rowland – Ireland Sevens
Steve Toal-Lennon – St. Mary’s RFC
Alex Wootton – Garryowen / Munster

Ireland men’s 7s fixtures for Olympic qualifying tournament:

Zimbabwe v Ireland, Pool A
Saturday 18 June, 10.22am Irish time, Stade Louis II

Samoa v Ireland, Pool A
Saturday 18 June, 1.15pm Irish time, Stade Louis II

Tonga v Ireland, Pool A
Saturday 18 June, 4.30pm Irish time, Stade Louis II, Monaco

Knock-out games
Sunday 19 June

__________

The Ireland women’s sevens team, meanwhile, are two weekends away from their shot at qualification for the Olympics, a target which is far more realistic.

Dublin plays host to the Women’s Sevens Olympic Repechage tournament on Saturday 25 June and Sunday 26 June at the UCD Bowl, when Ireland go up against 15 other teams for the final place in the women’s Olympic Sevens in Rio.

Lucy Mulhall, Jenny Murphy and Louise Galvin Mulhall, Jenny Murphy and Louise Galvin. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Spain and Russia – both World Sevens Series circuit sides – are likely to provide stiff competition for Ireland in two weekends’ time, while Kazakhstan, Hong Kong, China, Tunisia, Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Portugal, Mexico, Trinidad & Tobago, Samoa, Cook Islands, Argentina and Venezuela will also be present in Dublin.

Ireland warmed up for the Olympic qualifying tournament with a highly-creditable fourth-placed finish at last weekend’s Rugby Europe Women’s Sevens Grand Prix Series in Kazan, Russia.

A 19-10 win over Spain in the quarter-finals – with the prolific Alison Miller scoring two tries and Louise Galvin dotting down the third – was a timely boost before defeats to eventual champions France and a very strong Great Britain side.

The Kazan-hosted tournament also saw Ireland 15s captain Niamh Briggs play senior international sevens for the first time since 2013.

The second leg of the women’s Grand Prix series takes place in Malemort, France on 24 and 25 September.

Ireland will hope to head into that second leg having featured at the Olympics, with the Dublin qualifier this month providing them with their final chance to qualify.

Hosts Brazil, Australia, Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand, Colombia, USA, France, Kenya, Fiji and Japan have already qualified for the Olympics and Ireland will look to clinch the final spot for Rio.

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Murray Kinsella

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