This weekend sees Europe’s leading men's and women's sevens teams in action at Marcoussis in France as preparations continue in the build-up to Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018 in San Francisco next month.
The tournament at France's Centre National de Rugby is the first of back-to-back rounds for the men on the Rugby Europe Grand Prix Sevens Series, with the third round taking place in Exeter next weekend.
Ireland's men head into pool games against England, Spain and Poland in buoyant mood having won the opening round of the series in Moscow. This was then followed by a bronze medal performance at the London Sevens on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series and a top-eight finish in Paris a week later.
All bar one of the 12-man squad selected for Marcoussis were involved across those two rounds, with fit-again Mick McGrath the only new addition.
"The two world series events were a great experience for all involved and I know the players learnt a lot over those two weekends. However, the focus quickly switched back to the Grand Prix and these two important legs in Marcoussis and Exeter,” said IRFU sevens coach Stan McDowell.
"Things got off to a good start in Moscow last month, and now it's vital that we keep up the standard of performances over the next two weeks so that we are in a good position on the overall standings before the Sevens Rugby World Cup in San Francisco and the fourth and final leg in Poland come September."
Ireland’s day one meeting with fellow RWC Sevens participants England is likely to be one to savour, although their opponents' coach Simon Amor is firmly focused on the bigger picture.
“This is a key period for us as we continue to build towards the Rugby World Cup Sevens next month,” he said. “The priority for us with this tournament is for our senior players to play some competitive rugby to ensure the squad is in the best position it can be for San Francisco.
“The level of competition in this European series is high so this will also be a great development opportunity for our younger players, who will learn a great deal from playing alongside the more experienced members of our squad, as well as against some strong opposition.”
In Pool B, Russia are the only team heading to the San Francisco with Germany, Portugal and Georgia providing the day one opposition.
Pool C features two RWC Sevens-bound teams in hosts France and Wales in what is likely to be a hotly-contested set of fixtures. They are joined by top seeds Italy, who beat France in the bronze medal match in Moscow, and Sweden.
Streamed live on RugbyEurope.tv, fans across the world will be able to keep up to date with all the action from Marcoussis which got underway with the women’s competition on Friday.
Other than Spain, who were held to a 7-7 draw with Belgium, the remainder of the teams competing at Women’s RWC Sevens 2018 – Pool C opponents England and France, Russia and Ireland – got off to winning starts in the opening round of matches.