The Argument Against Sevens

Sevens - A Hornet's Nest

The mighty Fangio’s recent article in the Sunday Tribune provided some good talking points on the Munsterfans website, and resurrected the topic of the state of Sevens in the Irish game.

While the Mole is a casual fan of Sevens, in that he’ll watch it if it’s on, he’s far from a dyed-in-the-wool believer … especially when it comes to Irish involvement.

The IRFU have a substantial loan to repay on a brand new stadium. Where’s the money going to come from to send a playing squad, coaching unit, backup staff and medical team around the world? Just cut back a few international contracts! Nah, The Mole has got a better idea: get rid of some development officers. Wait, both of those are shit ideas.

The Sevens World Series incorporates games in UAE, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, the USA and Japan as well as Scotland and England … it’s an expensive business. The counter argument to that statement is that the likes of Kenya can afford to compete, so how come Ireland can’t?

Hmmm. Central contracting? Funding four professional provincial teams? Does that ring a few bells? How are Nairobi Knobkerries doing in the Super XV?

Secondly, how many of the Welsh squad that won the Sevens World Cup in 2009 are in the 2011 RWC squad? Just one, Aled Brew – and he only appeared in one match-day squad, the facile 81-7 win over Namibia. That makes a reasonably strong argument that there’s little carry-over from the Sevens game to regular, 15-man rugby: the best Sevens team in the world can only get one player into a 30-strong national squad for a world cup, and he’s a bit-part player. That’s not much of a development tool.

John Taylor quotes the English Sevens coach Ben Ryan as dismissing the idea “that it should be seen mainly as a development tool”:

“That is happening less and less. Players have to make a choice – do they want to concentrate on Sevens or 15s? The techniques and training required are becoming very different. Modern professional players are already pretty lean but the forwards in 15-a-side do need bulk as well. In Sevens that is not required and new training regimes are making body fat levels even lower so they are not able to transfer from one game to the other.”

Sevens is moving further and further away from the 15-man game. It’s an expensive luxury – and essentially a year-round foreign jolly – that Irish rugby simply can’t afford at the current time. With a Sevens squad composed of 12 players, the travelling party would include at least 17 people – a head coach, manager, baggage master, doctor and physiotherapist … and that’s a skeleton squad. No strength and conditioning team, no dietitians, no analysts etc.

That’s salaries, flights, accommodation, insurance, kit & clobber and matchday expenses for at least 17 people playing in five different continents [North America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australasia] over the course of a season. Going by Wales’ precedent – and they won the last Sevens World Cup! – Ireland might turn up a Fergus McFadden, i.e. a guy who gets one start in a World Cup game against a minnow. Totally worth it, though. Sure we may as well scrap the provincial academies.

Let’s not even bring to the table that as it stands, the IRFU is composed of players from two distinct states, i.e. the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, and that Northern Ireland competes under the UK flag at the Olympics. The reason that the Sevens has currency is because it is going into the Olympics, and any team that the Republic of Ireland sends will by its nature weaken the strong bonds that exist in the union, which is one of Irish rugby’s greatest strengths.

Sure there’s absolutely no ground for any political fallout there whatsoever, the two countries have always got on so well!

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5 thoughts on “The Argument Against Sevens

  1. Nail on the head again!!

    I find watching 7’s like watching basketball. There’s virtually no defence, scores come so fast you get bored by them and it boils down to who has the best individuals rather than team more often than not. Time and time again we see former 7’s players being found wanting in defence when they join the full version. 7’s (and 10’s) are fun days out, but no substitute for Union.

  2. Been away for a few days and you’ve got very controversial mole! You’ve even had a pop at sir gerry of thornley, lord of the scribes….you did!

    I don’t like tribal shitstorms…..but let’s talk British/Irish politics. An irresistible forces hits an immovable object. I love your solution to that one…it is a classic Irish male response, i.e let’s ignore it, put it in a box (marked May hurt leinster funding) and put it deep, deep down where it will never come out again. Much as the rfu, boa and irfu might like to dig a mole hole around this one it is coming in 2016.

    I am not sure how the boa intends to handle this. Looking at the soccer team my understanding is that it must be a British representative team and not separate union teams. My understanding is also that someone from the 6 counties has the right to represent either Ireland or Britain. Wayne mccullough for example was born and reared around the shankill road, but won silver for Ireland in Barcelona…and people call going from connacht to leinster, leinster to munster brave….Barcelona was in 1992. I’d be of the opinion that allowing individuals the freedom to choose is something that strengthens everyone. I don’t think it will be good enough come 2016 to want it to go away. Ulster players might love to represent Britain at the Olympics, it wouldn’t be for moi, but i would not like to force my views on anyone, other than readers here of course!

    I will give you the $ one. Yes you are correct, in order to compete in 7s it will cost money and arguably it may or may not provide players for the 15s game. Ben Ryan is right, 7s players are not necessarily 15s guys and vice versa. They tend to be very rounded players. I reckon they are the ultimate athletes. They have to sprint, endurance run, power, skill, kick (all types), possess good hands. Those skills though would be transferable surely though? By embracing 7s it would build up a healthier picture for the game, you can’t quantify that with how many players from one team went on to play 15s. Your stats are usually much more comprehensive than that. Anyone could name a fair smattering of 15s players who (may or may not) have benefited considerably from 7s.

    The growing the game bit to me is most relevant in ulster. A huge talent pool exists there who have little or no contact with the game. Does nobody want to expand people’s horizons? I ain’t talking about dividing people or political fallouts, but anyone who is threatened by offering sport to people needs to take a look at themselves. I have heard drico praising his gaelic football background as a good basis in transferable skills for rugby. Looking at the way ulsyer play, a bit of 7s style invention, pace and handling would do no harm to go with their toughness.

    That’s my argument for 7s anyways.

  3. Eddie ‘The Wiggler’ Wigglesworth has gone on the record about the IRFU/Team GB issue:

    “The understanding in relation to Team GB at the moment is that players will be selected for Team GB from the unions within their jurisdiction, which means players from Scotland, England and Wales will be representing GB. Players who play within the IRFU jurisdiction fall within the Irish Rugby Union. We do that with the agreement of the other unions,” explained Wigglesworth.

    When asked if the IRFU would strongly resist any moves by Britain to entice players, Wigglesworth said they didn’t need to as the position was clearly defined. “We are not resisting anything,” he said. “We are just saying that is the de facto position. It’s not a question of flexibility or any thing like that. That’s the understanding.”

    The Mole’s understanding is that ‘Team GB’ is actually ‘Team UK’ – i.e. that N.I. athletes are fully entitled to appear in the red, white and blue at the Olympics.

    Essentially what looks to have happened is that a gentleman’s agreement has been arrived at between the unions to avoid anything unseemly – fair enough.

    On the other hand, were a Northern Irish player determined to play for ‘Team GB’ in the 2016 games [because his background/political leanings/religious beliefs identified more with Britain than Ireland] AND the people at the head of Team GB’s Sevens wanted him, then I doubt this arrangement would stand up in court.

  4. The usual requirement, I think, is that athletes represent the nation relevant to their home federation. Boxing, like Rugby, never partitioned and is administered on an all-Ireland basis. For that reason, Wayne McCullough and many others from Unionist backgrounds have represented Ireland as their national tream at the Olympics just as Davy Tweed used to drive down from the Garvaghy Road to Dublin for Ireland training. Conversely, since football partitioned, NI players would be eligible for the prospective GB team, unlikely as their selection might be. AFAIK, this is not a “gentleman’s agreement” at all, but settled and long-standing official policy.

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