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Hugo Keenan To Miss South Africa Tour, Joins Ireland Sevens For Olympics

Hugo Keenan To Miss South Africa Tour, Joins Ireland Sevens For Olympics

Leinster's Hugo Keenan will skip Ireland's South Africa tour to join the Ireland Sevens squad for the Olympic Games in Paris in 2024.

May 22, 2024 by Philip Bendon
Hugo Keenan To Miss South Africa Tour, Joins Ireland Sevens For Olympics

Leinster fullback Hugo Keenan is set to miss Ireland's upcoming tour of South Africa as he gears up to join the Ireland sevens squad ahead of the Olympic Games in Paris. 

The 27-year-old’s return to the sevens format initially was reported by the42.ie, with RTÉ Sport confirming his inclusion in James Topping's squad for the next leg of the World SVNS Series in Madrid, contingent on his health post-Saturday's Investec Champions Cup final against Toulouse.

Keenan previously played in the Ireland sevens program from 2017 to 2019 before making significant strides with Leinster and the Irish XVs team. He has since earned 39 caps, solidifying his position as the first-choice fullback for both province and country.

The decision to integrate Keenan back into the Sevens setup aligns with earlier discussions between Topping and IRFU performance director David Nucifora about incorporating XVs players into the sevens squad in preparation for the Olympics. 

Leinster's head coach Leo Cullen expressed an open-minded approach regarding player availability for the sevens team.

The Olympic Sevens tournament, scheduled for July 24-27 at Stade de France in Paris, likely will cause Keenan to miss Ireland's test series in South Africa earlier that month. 

Keenan is anticipated to begin training with the sevens squad next week for the Madrid competition, followed by the Rugby Europe 7s Championship in Croatia from June 7-9. However, there remains a possibility for his return to Leinster for the BKT United Rugby Championship semifinal and final, should Leinster progress that far.

The move to sevens has garnered attention globally, with notable players like France captain Antoine Dupont and former Wallabies captain Michael Hooper also aiming for Olympic participation. In November, Keenan hinted at the allure of joining the sevens squad but emphasized his immediate focus on Leinster’s European campaign.

“No, like, it would be very cool to do,” Keenan told RTÉ Sport back in November. “I obviously loved my time with the sevens, I did two and a half, three years with them. It’s exciting for Dupont and the lads to do it, but I'm back with Leinster. My big target this year is that European Cup, and yeah, I'm just focusing on that.”

Having secured qualification for the Paris Games last summer, Ireland’s Sevens team is currently second in the World SVNS Series standings, ahead of next week’s final leg in Spain. Both the IRFU and Leinster Rugby have declined to comment on Keenan’s transition at this stage.

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