Keenan playing for Ireland 7s in 2019. Billy Stickland/INPHO
Gold Hopes

Hugo Keenan to return to Ireland 7s set-up ahead of the Olympics

The world-class fullback is expected to miss Ireland’s tour to South Africa.

IRELAND AND LEINSTER star Hugo Keenan is set to make a return to the Ireland 7s set-up ahead of this summer’s Olympics in Paris.

The 42 understands that Keenan is expected to miss the Ireland 15s team’s tour of South Africa in July as a result, while he could play his last game of the season with Leinster in the Champions Cup final this weekend.

Keenan played for the Ireland 7s from 2017 until 2019 and it’s thought that this once-in-a-lifetime chance to play at the Olympics was hard to resist. The IRFU has high hopes its men’s and women’s teams can compete for gold medals in Paris, with Keenan’s return set to be a major boost for James Topping’s side.

Keenan could be back with the Ireland 7s squad as early as next week for the final leg of the World SVNS Series in Madrid, presuming he comes through the Champions Cup final unscathed.

The world-class fullback is expected to be part of Leinster’s starting XV to face Toulouse in the decider in London this Saturday, but he looks likely to then swiftly change into 7s mode as he links up with Ireland for their trip to Madrid.

Keenan could then feature in the Rugby Europe 7s Championship in Croatia on 7/8/9 June as he continues to get back up to speed with the demands of 7s.

The Olympic 7s competition takes place at Stade de France in Paris from 24 to 27 July.

This return to 7s is set to see Keenan miss out on the URC play-offs with Leinster, as well as the Ireland 15s team’s two-Test tour of South Africa, where Andy Farrell’s side face the Springboks on 6 July and 13 July.

Keenan’s absence from that tour would allow Ireland boss Farrell to continue to look at other options at fullback, with the Leinster man having dominated the number 15 shirt in recent seasons and become a hugely important player in the green jersey.

hugo-keenan-makes-a-break-away-from-gianmarco-lucchesi Keenan is set to miss Ireland's tour of South Africa. Ben Brady / INPHO Ben Brady / INPHO / INPHO

His Leinster team-mate Ciarán Frawley started at fullback against Wales during the Six Nations, while Jordan Larmour was promoted into the number 15 jersey when Keenan was ruled out of the final game against Scotland at a late stage.

Keenan hasn’t played a huge amount of rugby this calendar year due to knee and hip injuries. He featured for Ireland three times in the 2024 Six Nations and has played for Leinster just twice since.

It seems that he was keen to have a tilt at the Olympics this summer and feels he is capable of adapting quickly from 15s to 7s. Keenan has spoken fondly of his time with Ireland 7s, pointing to that spell as key in developing his core skills. He was a key figure in helping Ireland build towards their qualification for the Tokyo Olympics.

Ireland are enjoying their best-ever season, sitting second in the overall SVNS series table with one leg to go. Their performances have suggested they could be on for a tilt at glory in Paris.

If Keenan can re-adapt to 7s quickly and bring his complete skillset to an already strong squad, it would be a huge boost for Ireland’s medal hopes.

Hosts France will have the world’s best 15s player, Antoine Dupont, in their squad for the Olympics, injury permitting.

Dupont played two legs of the SVNS series earlier this season but is now back playing 15s with club side Toulouse before returning to the 7s fold ahead of the Olympics. Australia have welcomed former Wallabies captain Michael Hooper into their squad this season and now Ireland are set to have a 15s star of their own in Keenan.

It could be that Ireland 7s are supplemented by other 15s players coming back into the selection mix. Former 7s international Andrew Smith, who is now with Connacht, is believed to be another possible candidate to make the switch for the Olympics.

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