Three Buccaneers touch rugby players have just returned from last week’s World Cup in Putrajaya, Malaysia. Rory Silke, Nigel So and Denis O’Connor were part of the Ireland Men’s over 40s team (M40s ) which were one of five Irish teams to take part in the competition.
The M40s finished 11th in the world with wins over Malaysia and Belgium as well as a draw against the USA. Both Rory and Nigel were making their debuts at this level and acquitted themselves extremely well in a relatively inexperienced Ireland side which was missing ten players from the side which came fourth in the 2018 European Championships.
The M40s began Pool B with a tough opener against the eventual bronze medalists Japan. The Japanese were fast and clever and despite a second half fightback from Ireland they triumphed 7-1.
Next up was a game against a well-organised United States side. Ireland built up a 4-2 lead early in the second half, but fade in the heat allowing the US to snatch an unlikely draw.
Throughout the week, the ferociously hot and humid conditions were a constant issue for the Irish teams. With air temperatures between 33-38°C and ground temperatures peaking at over 50°C playing the conditions correctly became all important, with an above average water intake particularly warranted during the competition.
Ireland’s third fixture was a contest against tournament favourites and eventual champions New Zealand. The ‘Touch Blacks’ dominated the game as expected but not before Ireland put them under some pressure with their driving, but the competition victors eventually won out.
Ireland’s fourth game saw them take on the host nation and the Malaysians threw everything at them in front of a partisan home crowd who cheered their every move. The M40s struggled to get on top before eventually easing to a 5-2 victory.
Day three of the competition involved must win games against pool rivals Singapore and England. An early start to the Singapore encounter allowed respite from the heat, but Ireland succumbed in the second half following an arm fracture to experienced middle, Dave Dowling.
Missed chances then cost Ireland dear as England ran out 8-4 winners in the hottest conditions both teams had experienced thus far.
These two defeats cost Ireland a top eight spot and the following day they played off successfully with the hosts and Belgium for 11th place, as temperatures reached 54.1°C. The two games were particularly notable for Rory and Nigel who both contributed to the scoring.
Overall it was positive experience for the M40s and the four other Irish teams although there is no doubt the horrendous conditions did hinder them from performing at their best. Most of the Irish players would not have experienced temperatures with high humidity before never mind having to play two high intensity international games a day over a four to five day period.
It is a notable distinction for Buccaneers touch rugby to have three players representing Ireland in the World Cup and hopefully there will be even more in the future.