RugbyThe Offload

Emerging Ireland set to once again tour South Africa later this year

Sevens programme proves its value; South Africa’s Wiese may miss Tests against Ireland; by the numbers; and quote, unquote

The IRFU are putting the final touches on the itinerary for an Emerging Ireland tour in September/October, mimicking the one undertaken in 2022. South Africa will once again be the host country. The Ireland senior coaching group, potentially again minus head coach Andy Farrell as was the case the last time, who will have Lions commitments next season, are likely to take charge as they did in 2022.

Two years ago, an Emerging Ireland side played three matches in Bloemfontein against the Windhoek Draught Griquas (54-7), the Airlink Pumas (28-24) and the Toyota Cheetahs (21-7). Simon Easterby led the tour as head coach and several players made a big impression, notably Calvin Nash, Jack Crowley, Joe McCarthy, and Cian Prendergast, all of whom went on to be capped within the next nine months.

Crowley went on to make his full Ireland debut against Australia and won a second cap in that November Test series against Fiji. McCarthy made his debut against the Wallabies, Prendergast against Fiji, while Nash made his first senior Irish appearance in a World Cup warm-up game against Italy the following summer.

One player who had taken a different route from that Emerging Ireland tour is Munster centre Antoine Frisch. He is expected to be part of Fabien Galthie’s French squad for their summer tour to South America — they will be without players from the Top 14 finalists — in advance of his move to the Top 14 club Toulon next season.

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Sevens more than paying its way

David Nucifora was a passionate advocate for the Sevens programme, one that he helped to transform to a point where the Ireland men’s and women’s squads have enjoyed considerable success on the World Series circuit.

What might be less well known is that he did it on a modest financial outlay of IRFU resources. The Sevens income thanks to sponsors TritonLake, governing funding from Sport Ireland, and the financial rewards that come from HSBC and the World Series, is second only behind the men’s senior 15s team in terms of generating income stream.

The two squads qualified for the Paris Olympics after which Nucifora will return to Australia. His successor as IRFU performance director, David Humphreys, was in Singapore when James Topping’s men’s squad were beaten in the final by New Zealand.

Nucifora hopes that the programme will continue to flourish. “David was in Singapore with me, getting his head around it and understanding it. It is nice that people associate me with it [Sevens] but we did it for a reason, a strategic reason, as well as an obligation as being a top-tier rugby country.

“Who would have thought that Ireland would finish second in the world in the World Series [season standings]. It is those sorts of things that can be done when people put their minds to it. The women’s programme is something different again. They need that programme to thrive. People just need to be able to touch it and feel it more here in Ireland.

“Hopefully one day a World Series event comes to Ireland and kids can see these girls who are fantastic athletes in action. That will help enormously in growing the game but also open the game up to others who don’t know how to access the game of rugby.

“[It would be great] if we can finish by winning two Olympic medals. Sport Ireland are massively behind the programme; they are chuffed we have two teams going to the Olympics that are medal contenders. So, there is more than just me that is behind it. They are both in a healthy state.

“David has already started to get his head around why they exist. Once you understand strategically why something exists then you look to leverage it.”

Springboks may be without Wiese for Ireland Tests

Jasper Wiese could miss South Africa’s two Test matches against Ireland in July after receiving a straight red card in Leicester’s English Premiership victory over the Exeter Chiefs. The 28-year-old Springbok was dismissed by referee Karl Dickson after he picked up Ross Vintcent at a ruck and drove him back into the ground.

It was a disappointing end to Wiese’s — voted the players’ player of the season — time at Leicester as the Tigers failed to make the playoffs and therefore have no more matches this season. South Africa play Wales at Twickenham as a warm-up match to the two Tests against Ireland in Pretoria and Durban.

Wiese would have been a strong contender to start at number eight but now must sweat over the disciplinary process.

Number: 3

The total number of points by which Ulster have managed to do the double over Leinster in this season’s URC Championship.

Quote

“He is brilliant on a personal level but look closely at what he does on the pitch. You realise that he also and above all works for the team. His role on [Yoram] Moefana’s try, for example, his chases also after kicks were excellent. I think Damian has the killer instinct” — Bordeaux backs’ coach Noel McNamara on the peerless Damian Penaud.