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6 Nations

Kennedy Claims World Sevens Series Awards Double

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The Men’s Series came to an exciting conclusion in Los Angeles, with Australia clinching the title for the first time and Ireland making history with their best ever overall finish of fifth place.

Kennedy played a crucial role in Ireland’s stellar nine-tournament campaign, becoming only the eighth player in World Series history to score 50 or more tries in a single season.

The Dubliner’s awards double adds to Ireland’s already impressive list of World Sevens Series accolades this year, as Women’s star Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe won three awards – including the leading try scorer and Dream Team honours – back in May.

Kennedy’s team-mate Jordan Conroy was a previous winner of the same two awards in 2020, at the end of a Covid-19-impacted first year on the World Series for the Ireland Men as a core team.

The awards, presented on Sunday at a ceremony held at the Torrance Marriot Redondo Beach Hotel, recognise and celebrate the players and teams who have performed at the highest level across this season’s series and produced the most memorable moments that thrilled and inspired fans around the globe.

Aside from the Men’s Try of the Series, which was voted for by fans on social media from a list of three nominees, winners have been selected by the World Rugby Sevens Series Awards panel, comprising former international Sevens players and series commentators, across the eight categories.

HSBC WORLD RUGBY MEN’S SEVENS SERIES – 2021/22 AWARD WINNERS:

Rookie of the Year: Corey Toole (Australia)

Nominees: Henry Paterson (Australia) and Dietrich Roache (Australia)

This award goes to a player who has made their HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series debut in the current season and delivered an outstanding performance.

All three nominees came from Australia with the winner Corey Toole the only one of the trio not to have previously featured at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

Toole made his series debut for Australia sevens at the first round of the 2022 Series in Dubai, alongside his fellow nominees Henry Paterson and Dietrich Roache.

Toole finished the series as the second leading try scorer with 43 tries, breaking the record for an Australian player and also the most by a rookie player in 2022.

Gilbert Top Try Scorer: Terry Kennedy (Ireland)

After scoring an incredible 50 tries in 52 games across this season’s HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, Ireland’s Terry Kennedy won the Gilbert Top Try Scorer award, matching the achievement of compatriot Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe who topped the Women’s Series scoring charts this year.

Try of the Series: Jamie Farndale (Scotland), v New Zealand in Toulouse

Nominees: Henry Paterson (Australia) v New Zealand in London, Felipe del Mestre (Argentina) v Fiji in Vancouver

Jamie Farndale’s try against New Zealand in Toulouse was voted by fans worldwide as the Try of the Series. The other nominees were Henry Paterson for his overtime try against New Zealand in London that gave Australia their first tournament win since Sydney 2018, and Argentina’s Felipe del Mestre against Fiji in Vancouver on the way to winning their first leg since San Diego 2009.

Don’t Crack Under Pressure Award: Henry Paterson (Australia)

This award is given to the player or team that has shown the ability to perform under the unique and intense pressure of top level Sevens. This award was voted for by the panel and went to Henry Paterson for his match-winning try in overtime against New Zealand in the London Cup final.

The other nominees were Argentina for their incredible Cup final win over Fiji in Vancouver, and France for their extra-time victory against Samoa on home soil in Toulouse.

DHL Impact Player: Corey Toole (Australia) 

This award is for the player who demonstrated the most consistency and delivered the greatest impact against four key criteria – carries, offloads, line-breaks and tackles.

This year’s winner was Corey Toole of Australia, who made 161 runs, 75 tackles and 45 breaks throughout the season.

Capgemini Leadership Award: Argentina

This award celebrates the team that has upped their performance and climbed the rankings throughout the season. Results have been tracked throughout all the rounds, and Argentina have ranked first in this year’s series, which included only their third ever title, and first since 2009, as they overcame Fiji in an epic decider in Vancouver.

HSBC Dream Team: Corey Toole (Australia), Terry Kennedy (Ireland), Marcos Moneta (Argentina), Nick Malouf (Australia), Waisea Nacuqu (Fiji), Luciano Gonzalez (Argentina), Zain Davids (South Africa)

Corey Toole – Toole made his series debut for Australia sevens in the first round in Dubai, and finished the Series as the second leading try scorer with 43 tries, the most by a rookie player.

Terry Kennedy – Led the series in the number of tries, assists and carries, and was second in line-breaks behind Corey Toole.

Marcos Moneta – The 2021 World Sevens Player of the Year scored 10 tries to help Argentina to victory in Vancouver where he was awarded the HSBC Player of the Final. He scored 38 tries in total during the series, despite missing the final round in LA.

Nick Malouf – The Australia captain led his team to a long-awaited Men’s Series title and contributed eight tries, 11 clean breaks, 82 tackles and 74 carries throughout the campaign.

Waisea Nacuqu – In his eighth season on series, Fiji’s talisman was awarded the HSBC Player of the Final in Toulouse. During the series he scored 230 points, 24 tries, 19 clean breaks, 85 carries and 62 tackles.

Luciano Gonzalez – A key member of Argentina’s impressive campaign which involved a first Cup final win since 2009. He recorded 30 tries, 32 clean breaks, 39 tackles and 173 carries – the second highest in the series.

Zain Davids – Helped South Africa to claim consecutive victories in the first four rounds of the series and ended with 13 tries, 68 carries, 18 line breaks, 3 offloads, 1 try assist and 91 tackles.

Fair Play Award: Japan

The Fair Play Award is selected by the match officials and recognises the team that showcased rugby’s values of integrity, passion, solidarity, discipline and respect. This year’s recipient was Japan.

World Rugby Chief Executive Alan Gilpin was in attendance at the awards and said: “On behalf of World Rugby, I would like to congratulate all of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series award winners.

“There was some truly sensational Sevens played across the series and audiences were entertained by the speed, skill and all-action drama of Sevens, capturing the attention of new players and fans worldwide and inspiring young boys and girls around the globe to get involved in rugby.

“It was a fantastic marker of the highly competitive nature of international Sevens to see four teams still in with a chance of winning the series title heading into the crucial final round in Los Angeles.

“With the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Cape Town kicking off on September 9-11, and the Olympic Games in Paris less than two years away, the future of Sevens is very bright.”

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


6 Nations

‘Tour Experience Should Help Players To Kick On’ – Easterby

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The 35-man panel was announced yesterday for their upcoming trip to South Africa, which will see them play the Griquas, Pumas and Cheetahs as part of the Toyota Challenge, beginning on Friday, September 30.

Baloucoune was set to tour New Zealand with Ireland last summer, but a hip injury sidelined him at the end of last season. Now, a year out from the Rugby World Cup, he is determined to get back in the Test match fold.

Emerging Ireland head coach Simon Easterby sees the Bloemfontein series as a timely opportunity for the Ulster winger, who was capped against the USA and Argentina last year, to showcase his talent again in a green jersey.

“Rob was due to come to New Zealand with us and didn’t because of injury. He is certainly one that has been around the environment for a while, but he’s only got a couple of caps,” said Easterby.

“I guess him and a few others in there, we feel like there’s still a need for us to build time and exposure in what we’re trying to do.

“We’re really lucky at the moment that all the players are getting a high level of coaching and expertise in the provinces, but we do things slightly differently as the provinces will do.

“So, we need to make sure that we keep them aligned to what we’re doing in the national set-up. It’s not a million miles apart from each other, but there’s always going to be little nuances and differences that we have, that each province will do slightly differently.”

The Enniskillen man was in electric form at times during the 2021/22 campaign, his Heineken Champions Cup hat-trick away to Toulouse and a couple of dazzling scores in the URC standing out.

As one of only four Test-capped players in the Emerging Ireland selection, Baloucoune could have more of a leadership role to play in Bloemfontein where Easterby anticipates ‘a good standard of rugby’ and ‘a fast-flowing game, on potentially a dry track’.

His speed, athleticism and defensive and attacking skills look ideally suited for the three-match run, given the Ireland youngsters will be coming up against ‘some serious athletes in the three teams we will be playing against’.

Easterby continued: “For someone like Rob, who has spent time in the environment, he came in as a development player a couple of years ago and then won a couple of caps and did really well.

“Then he’s had to spend a bit of time out with injury. We would have loved to have seen him in New Zealand, getting opportunities out there, but we didn’t get that chance.

“So, he’s one that we feel will benefit from spending more time in our environment. Hopefully he goes back to Ulster after the experience and he kicks on again.

There’s this massive opportunity over the next couple of months, through the (Ireland) ‘A’ game and the autumn internationals and beyond that into the Six Nations and beyond, for players like Rob and others.

“The time spent with us, in the bigger picture, is hopefully going to expose them and give them a real good foundation for the season ahead because it is such a massive season for all of us.”

Versatile Leinster back Frawley, who turns 25 in December, is shaping up to be a contender for the Ireland number 10 jersey after his exploits in New Zealand.

During that second Test victory over Māori All Blacks, he stood tall in managing the game in wet and windy conditions in Wellington and contributed 10 points from the tee.

While Frawley has played most of his provincial rugby at inside centre, the Ireland management want to see more of him at out-half and this upcoming tour could see him really come to the fore.

“We feel ‘Frawls’ has the potential to lead in a number of different positions,” noted Easterby. “Obviously he’s played 12 a fair bit for Leinster, but we see him – which he did in the Māori weeks – as being a guy that can lead from the front at 10. You know, lead a week.

“He’ll be asked in the next few weeks to do a slightly different role to what he was doing in New Zealand because he had a lot of senior players around him.

“We feel like he has the ability to step up and lead the week as someone like, the extreme, that Johnny Sexton does week in and week out and has done for a number of years.

“Giving those players like ‘Frawls’ the chance to put himself at the forefront of a week, lead it and take the team to a performance on a weekend in that position of 10 is crucial for us.”

Frawley will certainly face some stiff competition for the starting berth from Munster’s Jack Crowley and Ulster newcomer Jake Flannery, who made the switch from his native Munster and has similarly lofty ambitions.

Getting these players up to speed with the rigours of an international set-up and playing in a challenging touring environment is of huge value to the national coaches, but also potentially for their provinces on their return.

“We’re still finding a little bit about Frawls and the way he can play. You can see that when they’re playing in the URC and they’re playing for their provinces, but it is slightly different,” said the Emerging Ireland head coach.

“It’s not hugely different but it is different when you have them in your environment across a period of a couple of weeks.

“Hopefully we can benefit from that time and Frawls and the other players can benefit from that time with us when they go back to their provinces after this trip.”

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


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6 Nations

Easterby: Emerging Ireland Tour Allows Us To Look Further Into Talent Pool

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Presenting an early opportunity to work with and impress the national coaches in a World Cup year, an Emerging Ireland squad has been selected to compete in the upcoming Toyota Challenge in Bloemfontein.

Three of South Africa’s Currie Cup teams, the Griquas, Pumas and Cheetahs, will provide the opposition for a young squad coached by Simon Easterby, the national defence coach.

The 35-man panel includes four Test-capped players, three who saw action against the Māori All Blacks, and a number of players who featured for the Ireland Under-20s in recent seasons, including 2022 U-20 Grand Slam winners James Culhane and Chay Mullins.

These are the first fixtures for an Emerging Ireland side since the Tbilisi Cup back in 2015, with Easterby hoping those selected can make the most out of the tour and press their claims for further involvement in November and beyond.

“I guess to put it in context, and the year that presents itself leading to the Rugby World Cup, we know that we have a real good, strong core group of players that’s been with us for a number of years,” said Easterby.

“But, we have to try and grow the depth and look further into the talent pool, in terms of our squad going forward.

“This is a real opportunity to build some continuity for some of those players that would have been with us in New Zealand during the Māori games and spent time with us in the environment there.

“But, also bring back a few players who have been out of the system for a while due to injury or form, and also look at some of the depth in positions that we need to fulfil a World Cup year.”

Ulster’s Robert Baloucoune and Cormac Izuchukwu are both back from injury, as is Munster’s highly-rated back rower John Hodnett, while promising young tightheads Tom Clarkson, Roman Salanoa (pictured above) and Sam Illo will travel.

This week’s announcement that an Ireland ‘A’ team will take on an All Blacks XV in November should give an added incentive to the South Africa-bound group, who will first come together for a three-day camp at the IRFU High Performance Centre next week.

Easterby explained: “We know 33 players will go to the World Cup, but we all know that that number needs to be higher and we need to have a larger pool of players at our disposal.

“To do that and effectively have that number of players, we need to spend more time with players and get to know players, connect with players.

“That’s why there’s a good cross-section of players that have got a few caps, players that have spent time in the environment recently, but also players who won’t have had any time in the environment.

“That gives us an opportunity to expose them to what we’re trying to do as a team, and for us as coaches in particular, to connect with those players and get to know them a bit better in what will be a really challenging year.”

The Toyota Challenge, which will see Emerging Ireland play three times in nine days, beginning on Friday, September 30, is happening at the same time as some of the early rounds of the BKT United Rugby Championship.

Among those matches are interprovincial derbies in both Belfast and Galway, but Easterby said that there has been plenty of communication and hard work going on behind the scenes to ensure that both provincial and national needs are met.

“There’s been dialogue right through with Andy (Farrell) and the provincial coaches, in particular, discussing players, discussing their needs, our needs,” acknowledged the former Ireland and Lions flanker.

“There’s been compromises, there will be some selections that the province will feel that they’d be better served with them, but there’s also players that we feel would be better served, at this moment in time, exposing them to our environment.

“Looking at the bigger picture, the short to longer term is that this year presents itself with not just the three games in South Africa, there’s an Ireland ‘A’ game against a New Zealand XV in the autumn, there’s three Tests in the autumn, there’s the Six Nations and then there’s the pre-World Cup.

“So there’s not that many opportunities to expose players to the environment and find out a little more about certain players.

“With that in mind, we also have to feel like we’re not ripping the heart out of the provinces and taking too many players in one position.

“I’m sure there will be discussions along the way, injuries will inevitably happen throughout the next couple of weeks. We have to be prepared to be flexible and compromise as the provinces have in allowing us to select this team.”

Ireland head coach Farrell will be involved in the preparatory camp at the IRFU HPC, but will not be travelling to South Africa as he remains busy focusing on the November internationals and Rugby World Cup matters.

Easterby, who will be supported by fellow national coaches Paul O’Connell, Mike Catt and John Fogarty, said that Farrell will be ‘getting around and staying connected’ with the other Ireland players who will be returning for their provinces in the coming weeks.

“The timing of the tour coincides with a lot of players returning from their national break, the international players,” he added.

“So, player management and welfare has been at the forefront of a lot of what we’ve been talking about and understanding that, yes, we’re taking players out of the provincial system, but there will also be players re-entering their system at the same time as when we travel.

“To build depth we need time with the players, we need to find out a little bit more about them, about their personalities.

“We need to find out about how do they adapt to international rugby or at least adapt to situations where we’ve only got three or four training sessions to prepare for a game.”

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


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6 Nations

Emerging Ireland Squad Named For Toyota Challenge In Bloemfontein

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The Ireland coaching group have named the 35 man squad that will travel to South Africa in late September to play in the Toyota Challenge. The Emerging Ireland panel will have a three day camp in the IRFU’s High Performance Centre in Dublin before flying to Bloemfontein to play against three Currie Cup sides – the Griquas, Pumas and Cheetahs.

The squad contains four capped players – Robert Baloucoune (2 caps), Caolin Blade (1 cap), Shane Daly (2 caps) and Max Deegan (1 cap) – and three players who featured against the Māori All Blacks during the summer: Ciaran Frawley, Joe McCarthy and Cian Prendergast.  

Jamie Osborne and Tom Ahern have both trained with the senior Ireland squad as development players.

Eight players featured in the Ireland U20 side that won a Six Nations Grand Slam in 2019 – Tom Clarkson, Brian Deeny, Jake Flannery, John Hodnett, Michael Milne, Scott Penny, Callum Reid and Dylan Tierney-Martin. 

2022 U20 Six Nations Grand Slam winners James Culhane and Chay Mullins are included. James was named U20 Player of the Tournament while Chay has gone on to win a bronze medal at the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Cape Town.

Andrew Smith also played for Ireland 7s in last weekend’s Rugby World Cup Sevens in South Africa. The former Ireland U20 has played in seven World Series tournaments and won an Energia AIL title with Clontarf this year.

Harry McNulty and Andrew Smith 11/09/2022

 Ireland’s Andrew Smith in action at the Rugby World Cup 7s in Cape Town Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Travis Prior

David Nucifora, IRFU Performance Director, commented:

“This Emerging Ireland tour is of vital strategic importance in a Rugby World Cup year. It will put some stress on our player resources but it will provide an opportunity for emerging talent to impress the national coaches early in a World Cup season. As these players return to their provinces their progress can be monitored and supported so that they remain part of the national team picture.

The three games in Bloemfontein and the game against the All Blacks XV in Dublin provide an incredible opportunity for these players to gain experience in the national environment and force their way into the coaches’ thinking for the season ahead.”

Andy Farrell, Ireland Head Coach, commented: “This opportunity provides another window for players to develop and show they can thrive in the intensity of a national environment. It will be exciting to see which players step up and put themselves in the frame for a further opportunity to impress in November.

“For some players it is an opportunity to build on what they have already learned in national camp and take their development to the next level, for others it is a first opportunity to show the national coaches what they are about and what they can deliver.”

Simon Easterby, Emerging Ireland Head Coach, commented: “The coaching group are really excited about working with this squad and broadening the selection pool for the national team.

“We will look to replicate the national team environment and training intensity, so players get a good understanding of what it takes to perform at the highest level. The players will have to adapt to the national team’s tactical and technical approach in a very short window of time and deal with the pressure of performing in a green jersey.”

Emerging Ireland Squad – Toyota Challenge 2022

Backs (15)

Robert Baloucoune (Ulster/Enniskillen)*
Caolin Blade (Connacht/Galwegians)*
Jack Crowley (Munster/Cork Constitution)
Shane Daly (Munster/Cork Constitution)*
Nathan Doak (Ulster/Banbridge)
Jake Flannery (Ulster/Shannon)
Antoine Frisch (Munster)
Ciaran Frawley (Leinster/UCD)
Michael McDonald (Ulster)
Ethan McIlroy (Ulster/Queens RFC)
Stewart Moore (Ulster/Malone)
Chay Mullins (Connacht/IQ Rugby)
Calvin Nash (Munster/Young Munster)
Jamie Osbourne (Leinster/Naas)
Andrew Smith (Leinster/Clontarf)

Forwards (20)

Tom Ahern (Munster/Shannon)
Diarmuid Barron (Munster/Garryowen)
Tom Clarkson (Leinster/Dublin University)
James Culhane (Leinster/UCD)
Max Deegan (Leinster/Lansdowne)*
Brian Deeny (Leinster/Clontarf)
John Hodnett (Munster/UCC)
Sam Illo (Connacht)
Cormac Izuchukwu (Ulster/Ballynahinch)
Alex Kendellen (Munster/UCC)
Joe McCarthy (Leinster/Dublin University)
Michael Milne (Leinster/UCD)
Scott Penny (Leinster/UCD)
Cian Prendergast (Connacht)
Callum Reid (Ulster/Banbridge)
Roman Salonoa (Munster/Shannon)
Alex Soroka (Leinster/Clontarf)
Tom Stewart (Ulster/Ballynahinch)
Dylan Tierney-Martin (Connacht/Corinthians)
Josh Wycherley (Munster/Young Munster)

*Capped For Ireland

Emerging Ireland Toyota Challenge Fixtures 2022

Windhoek Draught Griquas vs Emerging Ireland
Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Friday 30th September 2022, KO 12:45 (Irish time)

Airlink Pumas vs Emerging Ireland
Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Wednesday 5th October 2022, KO 16:00 (Irish time)

Toyota Cheetahs vs Emerging Ireland
Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Sunday 9th October 2022, KO 12:00 (Irish time)

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


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