The Offload: Ireland’s Sevens speedsters shine in warm-up

The new captain’s challenge rule has some teething problems in the Rainbow Cup

Jordan Conroy (R) and Aaron Sexton both impressed for the Ireland Sevens side. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Jordan Conroy (R) and Aaron Sexton both impressed for the Ireland Sevens side. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

 

Speedsters shine in Sevens warm-up

The Ireland men’s squad warmed up for the Olympics Sevens Repêchage qualifier in Monaco on June 19th-20th by taking in a triangular tournament with the hosts, Team GB and the USA at English football’s national training facility, St George’s Park. The matches were played on the Gary Lineker pitch.

The Irish Women’s Sevens team were also involved in a three-cornered competition at the same venue, involving Team GB and France. The format was the same for both men’s and women’s events, two matches per day on Saturday, Sunday and today (Monday).

It gave Anthony Eddy, the director of women’s and Seven’s rugby, the chance to appraise the national squads in their first blowouts of the year but particularly the men’s squad who are vying for a place at the Tokyo Olympics.

Ireland have been drawn in a pool including Sevens heavyweights, Samoa, along with Tonga, Zimbabwe and Mexico, while the other pool contains France, Hong Kong, Chile, Uganda and Jamaica. The top two in each pool qualify in semi-finals with only the winner going to Tokyo.

The tournament in England was therefore invaluable preparation and having lost narrowly to the hosts Ireland squeaked past a star studded USA team, perennial winners on the elite circuit, 12-10 but on the Sunday morning produced an even better performance by racing into a 31-0 against the Americans before the latter scored two late tries.

That game produced a couple of standout moments, the first a coming together of Ireland’s speedster Jordan Conroy, the most recent leading try scorer on the elite Sevens circuit, and Carlin Isles, who has run 10.13 for the 100 metres. Conroy’s handoff left Isles on the ground so the anticipated footrace never materialised.

The second centred on Ulster’s former schoolboy sprint sensation Aaron Sexton who stood up USA Eagles and Sevens wing Martin Iosefo and then burned him on an outside break. A young Irish squad included Munster prospects Jack Crowley and Alex Kendellen and UCD’s Gavin Mullin alongside Sevens stalwarts Billy Dardis and the outstanding Terry Kennedy.

Number of the week

14 - The number of points that Rainbow Cup north table toppers Benetton have amassed following three straight victories in the tournament. The Italians are the only unbeaten side in the tournament and their final two matches are at home to Connacht and away to the Ospreys.

Quote of the week

“Would you shut up” - An exasperated Mike Adamson’s exhortation was picked up by the microphones at the RDS during Leinster’s win over Ulster. The Scottish official appeared to direct his comment towards an unidentified Leinster player judging by the way he looked back over his shoulder.

When is a captain’s challenge not a captain’s challenge?

When is a captain’s challenge not a captain’s challenge under the new laws adopted for the Rainbow Cup? The answer based on the evidence of what happened at the RDS last Friday night is when the referee, in this case Scotland’s Mike Adamson, believed that the challenge originated from sources outside the playing group on the pitch.

Leinster captain Luke McGrath wanted the officials to review a high tackle incident in the last passage of play as the home side chased a fourth try and a bonus point. Adamson declined the request suggesting that the material for the challenge had been communicated to McGrath via the team doctor. Instead he blew for the end of the match.

The germane part of the amended law states: “The Captain’s Challenge will be applied more broadly from the 75-minute mark in any match at which point the captain, provided they have not already lost their Challenge, can use it to check any whistled decision regardless of whether a try has been scored. Injury time is included in the post 75-minute period.”

There are a number of supplementary clauses but none governs how a captain sources a challenge. Leinster head coach Leo Cullen said in the immediate aftermath: “I still don’t know what the process is. I didn’t talk to the referee so I’ll go and ask, because I’m not even sure myself. As we know, I think it’s having a few teething issues. I’ll ask the question as to what is the correct process.”

Kelly extends Leicester stay

Ireland Under-20 international Dan Kelly signed a contract extension with the Leicester Tigers last month to extend his stay at Welford Road. The 19-year-old Loughborough student was a member of Noel McNamara’s Irish 20s side that won three matches before the 2020 Six Nations was suspended and then cancelled.

The reason that he linked up with the Tigers - he started in the centre for them at the weekend in the win over Harlequins - in the first place was so that he could continue his studies at Loughborough. The IRFU had offered him an academy place in Ireland.

Having played for the Irish 20s a year young he is eligible for this year’s tournament which takes place in Cardiff starting next month. A complication from an Irish perspective is that he may not be released by the Tigers given his recent first team status and won’t have spent any/sufficient time with the Irish training group.

Kelly formed a brilliant midfield partnership with Hayden Hyde for the Irish 20s but the latter who is London born has left the Ulster academy to return to boyhood club Harlequins in London. Irish rugby would have looked to retain both but may possibly end up with neither as playing Under-20s rugby for one country doesn’t preclude you from switching allegiance to another.

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