WITH their eyes firmly fixed on the 1997 World Cup Sevens, Ireland will send a team bristling with current Test players for the March 29-31 Cathay Pacific HongkongBank Sevens. Current Ireland scrum-half Niall Hogan will captain the sevens side which includes five other internationals who will be turning out for their country against Wales this Saturday at Lansdowne Road. The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) have taken a long-term view with their decision that the 10-strong squad for next month's Hong Kong tournament will also represent the country (barring injury) at the second World Cup Sevens which the territory will host in March, 1997. The days of treating the Hong Kong Sevens as a 'fun-trip' are obviously over for the IRFU. With the stakes upped next year, the Irish want to use the 21st Hong Kong Sevens as a testing ground for the World Cup. 'We have picked a squad which we think will serve us well in the 1997 World Cup Sevens. It is important that they play together in Hong Kong next month and try and get a feel for the World Cup,' said IRFU official Sinead Aiken yesterday. The serious approach of the Irish is highlighted by the fact that they have retained only international winger Niall Woods from last year's team which fared dismally, losing to Namibia and drawing with Portugal in the preliminary pool. Ireland still made it into the Plate competition, but were beaten by Japan in their first game. Woods and Hogan aside, the other players in the Hong Kong Sevens squad who will be going all out to salvage Five Nations pride for Ireland against Wales on Saturday, are flankers Denis McBride and David Corkery, centre Jonathan Bell and winger Simon Geoghegan. Speedy winger Geoghegan, who did not play in the 45-10 drubbing at the hands of France, is under an injury cloud for the Welsh game, but Irish selectors are confident that he will be fit by the time of the Hong Kong Sevens. The rest of the Sevens team comprises forwards Paddy Johns and Eddie Halvey, and backs Eric Elwood and Richard Wallace. In the past, local club commitments and the Five Nations has prevented Ireland, and indeed the rest of the Five Nations countries from sending their best team. But this year, Ireland have decided that nothing but the best should front up in Hong Kong. 'This is the best possible sevens side we have at the moment,' said Aiken. The IRFU have also taken the unprecedented step of naming 13 other reserve players for the World Cup Sevens. 'If any player in the current sevens squad is injured or if he loses his form, they will be replaced with players from this back-up pool,' added Aiken. An interesting name among the back-up squad is former All Black full-back John Gallagher. The talented Gallagher, who is eligible to play for Ireland because of his parentage, has featured before at the Hong Kong Sevens. He played for New Zealand in 1990 when the Kiwis were beaten by Fiji in the final which included the magical try by Tomasi Cama. Ireland Sevens squad Denis McBride (Malone), Paddy Johns (Dungannon), David Corkery (Cork Constitution), Eddie Halvey (Saracens), Niall Hogan (capt - Terenure), Eric Elwood (Lansdowne), Jonathon Bell (Northampton), Richard Wallace (Garryowen), Niall Woods (Blackrock), Simon Geoghegan (Bath). Back-up 7s squad Alain Roland, Jonathon Garth, James Topping, Chris Saverimutto, Kieron Dawson, Darragh O'Mahony, Paul Burke, David Humphries, Kurt McQuilkin, Ben Cronin, Jeremy Davidson, Jan Cunningham, John Gallagher.