I'd love Olympic sevens chance with Ireland - Timoney

3 months ago 80
Ulster back row Nick TimoneyNick Timoney in action for Ulster against Racing 92 in the Champions Cup

Ulster forward Nick Timoney says he would relish the opportunity to play sevens rugby for Ireland at the Paris Olympics and believes the competition represents an invaluable showcase for the sport.

Last week, Irish Rugby Football Union performance director David Nucifora revealed that four players - one from each Irish province - will be given the chance to earn a place in Ireland's sevens squad for the Games next summer.

Nucifora indicated that those who would be regarded as likely to "add value significantly to the current squad" would likely be a player who had come through the IRFU's sevens programme and were familiar with the game.

Back row Timoney and fellow Ulster players Robert Baloucoune, Cormac Izuchukwu and Aaron Sexton all have sevens experience, as have Leinster's Ireland trio Hugo Keenan, Jimmy O'Brien and Will Connors.

France star Antoine Dupont has committed to his country's sevens side for their home Olympics, with ex-Wallabies captain Michael Hooper also targeting a Olympic spot with Australia's team in Paris.

"I'd love to [be part of the Ireland sevens squad], but I'd be somewhat surprised if I got nominated ahead of Baloucoune and Sexton. I'd pick them ahead of myself," said Timoney.

"I wouldn't say no. It would be amazing. I think it's great what France are doing with Dupont playing and what Ireland seem to be shaping up to do with a player from each province.

"Sevens is great. It's no secret that rugby has struggled in certain areas and countries where it is not established and I think sevens is a good way to address that.

"Having the superstars of the sport at the Olympics can only really be a good thing in my eyes."

Dupont fuelled by World Cup disappointment as he targets OlympicsAntoine DupontAntoine Dupont was the 2021 World Rugby player of the year

With France's superstar scrum-half Dupont set to miss the Six Nations and Toulouse's club season, the question of how the XVs and sevens forms of the game can co-exist remains up for debate.

"It's not that sustainable a process but I think as a once-every-four-years showcase to the world the sport, I think it's probably beneficial in the long run, certainly to the people within the sport.

"If you're a France fan you might be disappointed that Dupont isn't playing in the Six Nations but if you're not going to watch games or go to games just because one or two players are missing versus the potential of dragging in hundreds of thousands, millions. Obviously millions watch the Olympics.

"If Dupont goes and wins the Olympics for France in his home country and a million more kids watch and decide they want to take up rugby that kind of seems like it's maybe worth the trade-off.

"It's a bit like the Lions Tours. Is it great to have two or three of your team's players going to the likes of New Zealand?

"It doesn't directly benefit Ulster to have Hendy [Iain Henderson] going and playing for the Lions but in the long run it does kind of add an attraction that you've got these lads who are kind of superstars."

Ireland qualified for Paris 2024 by beating Great Britain in the final of the European Games in June, thereby ensuring their second appearance at an Olympics, having competed in Tokyo in 2021.

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