BLACKROCK College duo Amy Davis and Shannon Houston embark on a new journey this week as part Jon Skurr’s Irish women’s rugby sevens squad.
They are competing in the Emirates Dubai Rugby Sevens event – the first leg of the 2013/14 IRB Women’s Sevens World Series.
Ireland booked their place on the World Series circuit for the first time after reaching the Cup quarter-finals at the Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament in Moscow back in June.
It is another big step forward for the Irish women with potential Olympic qualification down the line should the side continue to progress.
Indeed, five of the side that won the Grand Slam last spring are bound for Dubai where Ireland will take on the USA, defending champions New Zealand and Fiji on the opening day.
The Ireland players – a number of them new to top level sevens rugby – prepared for Dubai with a series of weekend camps and invitational tournaments, including trips to the Netherlands and France.
Ahead of the trip to the UAE, head coach Skurr said that his sides are excited to be part of a new era for the women’s game: “Obviously a lot of hard work has gone in to get us to this point so far and we’re excited to be starting the season this week.
“It’s a new challenge for us and our main objective is to get a good start. We’d like to qualify for the main competition [in Dubai] but it’s going to be tough for us. It’s a really tough group and I don’t think any World Series group is ever going to be easy.
“It’s a big year for Irish women’s rugby, there’s a lot going on and one of our jobs is to extend the player base that we’ve got, so that we’ve got more people competing.
“There’s a small group of players who have been playing across both codes, and what we’re trying to do is expand that pool of players out, challenge at the top level and develop players which is hopefully going to have a long-term benefit to both 15s and Sevens.”
Skurr explained they are bringing a very new team to Dubai and while admitting it will be a learning curve, he is quietly confident the fresh faces will adapt quickly and make progress throughout the campaign.
“We were unfortunate before the World Cup losing a lot of players to injury which challenged us and probably made us realise the situation we’d been in now – that we need to extend our pool of players,” said Skurr.