PRESIDENT OF THE Olympic Council of Ireland, Pat Hickey is confident an Irish women’s team can secure a podium finish at the Rio Olympics in 2016.
“Personally, I think there is a huge future for Rugby Sevens female for Ireland to win medals. I think it is a great game for females and I think we could do very, very well in that for the future,” he said this week.
Hickey’s comments coincided with Ireland’s appointment of a new coach for the Women’s Sevens rugby team as they embark on a qualification campaign for the 2013 World Championships. Jon Skurr, who previously coached the Men’s Sevens team at the 2009 World Championships, will take charge of an elite squad of 21 players competing in events over the next three months.
Ireland Women’s side finished third in this season’s Six Nations and entered their final match against England with an outside chance of winning the championship. The senior ladies’ team are not scheduled to play another international, however, until the 2013 Six Nations – a situation that captain Fiona Coghlan admits is not ideal.
Coghlan is in favour of the IRFU giving its full support to a women’s sevens squad although, as a loose-head prop, she remarks that it is not the sport for her. She added:
Sevens is such a new sport in the women’s game and is really taking off. We have somegirls in our squad, like Ashleigh Baxter, Claire Molloy, Niamh Kavanagh and Jennifer Murphy, who would makesuper Sevens players.
England and Australia are the top two women’s sevens teams in the world, while Canada currently lie third in the rankings. Ireland will send representative sides to take part in tournaments in Kinsale, Amsterdam and Bournemouth before competing in European qualifiers for the World Championships in Moscow next year.
Before Skurr and his squad of 21 ladies can focus on toppling the English and Australians, the must first deal with sides such as Israel, Scotland and Georgia.
The first European qualifier takes place in Ghent, Belgium, from June 7-11. The first wins must be recorded on Belgian pitches before minds are allowed to drift towards dreams of Rio in 2016.