Brian O’Driscoll laments Ireland’s absence from sevens scene
Lions great declares it ‘a shame’ that his country will miss out on the code at 2016 Rio Olympics
Ireland and Lions great Brian O'Driscoll says it's "a shame" his country are missing out on the sevens phenomenon sweeping the rugby world, especially with the code being part of the Rio Olympic Games next year.
The Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens this weekend features the world's leading rugby teams except Ireland, who last week won their second Six Nations Championship on the trot.
"Of course, it will be great to see an Irish sevens team. We'd have to have a sevens [men's] team first of all, which we don't, although we do have a women's sevens team," said O'Driscoll, in Hong Kong to take part in the HSBC Festival powered by Serevi, a globe-trotting rugby community programme headed by Fijian sevens legend Waisale Serevi.
"It's a real shame. A few years ago they cut costs and that's why they had to cut [sevens] off. But now the [Irish] economy is back up, and with the 15s team doing as well as they are, it will be a great opportunity for young guys to get international experience and possibly build up to the 15s game."
In September 2013, the Irish Rugby Football Union said it was unlikely the country would have a team at the Rio Olympics, although it did not rule out entering a team in the repêchage qualifiers.
In December, the body launched talent identification days with an open invitation to athletes from all sports to undergo physical tests to see if they had the potential to become part of an elite sevens programme.
However, as of now, they are only targeting the Europe Championships in June.
O'Driscoll is the most capped player in rugby union history with 133 appearances for Ireland - 83 as captain - and eight for the British & Irish Lions, whom he captained during their 2005 tour of New Zealand.
However, his tour ended early when he was injured in the opening minutes of the first test against the All Blacks after being tackled by Tana Umaga and Keven Mealamu. The 36-year-old has never played sevens at the highest level and was able to learn a few tricks about the shortened game yesterday from the code's best-ever player - Serevi himself.
"As an ambassador with HSBC I'm here to help grow the sport at grass-roots level," said O'Driscoll, who is looking forward to watching the Hong Kong Sevens for the first time. "With the great man Serevi in his camp, we can show them a few tricks along the way.
"I love coming to these sessions where we work with kids and I can show them some of the things I've learned in 15 years of rugby.
"I've never been to the Hong Kong Sevens before but I've watched it on telly many times and it's a fantastic festival and real party atmosphere. I'm really looking forward to the weekend and everything that it entails."
Although Fijian Serevi is his travelling mate on his trip to Hong Kong, the Irishman prefers to back New Zealand to win the title this weekend at the Hong Kong Stadium.