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!