The Ireland men’s sevens team will make history in Dubai on Thursday when they compete in a World Series tournament for the first time as ‘a core’ nation.
Despite previous experience on this stage as an invitational side — they secured a third-place finish at last year’s London 7s — captain Billy Dardis admits there is now a greater weight of expectancy on their shoulders.
“We’ve had a taste of it, but coming in as an invitational side, nobody knows what you’re about. You can catch teams by surprise. Whereas we beat South Africa in Chester [pre-season tournament] and they kind of know what we’re about. We’ve got a target on our backs. Teams know we’re good. We can compete with the best teams when we’re playing well,” Dardis said.
“If you start on the back-foot you can find it hard to get out of that hole. It’s seeded every week based on the previous week, so you can find yourself in a bad group every week and suddenly you’re playing 15th and 16th play-offs. The aim would be to win all our group games [in Dubai] and that will set the tone for the year.”
First up for Ireland is a Pool B encounter with the USA on Thursday, with Australia and Scotland following on Friday. Results in these games will determine their path for the final day of action on Saturday at The Dubai Sevens Stadium — where a host of play-offs and finals take place.
This will be the third time in his sevens career Dardis has played in a three-day tournament. The Kildare native says it has its pros and cons.
“You get plenty of rest in between games, but at the same time it can drag on. It’s a long weekend and it’s a long time to be feeling the pressure and nervous. We can only look at it positively. If we look at it negatively, it’ll affect you,” the former Leinster academy star said.
“We can just look at it and say ‘oh, well we’re going to be rested going into each game and we’ll be ready to go’.
“It’s going to be a challenge playing in that heat and under that pressure, but we’re just looking forward to it.”