Ireland wing to follow Antoine Dupont and Michael Hooper in chasing Olympic dream

David Skippers
Robert Baloucoune Ireland v Fiji 2022 - Alamy.jpg

Robert Baloucoune in ation for Ireland against Fiji in 2022.

Ulster and Ireland flyer Robert Baloucoune is the latest high-profile rugby union player to make himself available to play sevens for his country at the Olympic Games in Paris in July.

He follows in the footsteps of France captain and scrum-half Antoine Dupont and former Wallabies skipper and back-row Michael Hooper, who are both set to make their respective sevens debuts for France and Australia at the next tournament in Los Angeles from March 1 to 3.

Previous sevens experience

Baloucoune is no stranger to the shortened version of the game, as he previously represented Ireland at the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens which was held in San Francisco.

The Irish Rugby Football Union announced last year that four players from each of Ireland‘s provinces would be given the opportunity to make the country’s sevens squad to compete at the Olympics.

“It has definitely crossed my mind,” Baloucoune told the BBC. “It would be a great opportunity to play in the Olympics. I really enjoyed sevens whenever I was playing. It was my first step into professional sport.

“It’s a great group of lads as well, they’re a great team so it’s always been in the back of my mind, but it’s just depending on sections and stuff like that.

“I am definitely raring for the opportunity. Obviously, it depends on certain injuries and how the body is and on our circumstances here, but if the opportunity arises, I’m definitely willing to go.”

Baloucoune, who has made four Test appearances for his country and scored two tries, revealed that he had dreams of competing in the Olympics in athletics as a child.

“I definitely used to dream about being in the Olympics as a runner whenever I was young, so even just being a part of the Olympics is pretty much a dream come true,” he said.

“Then also representing Ireland in the Olympics is even more special just with family and friends and stuff like that it would be class.”

The 26-year-old missed out on selection to Ireland’s Six Nations squad earlier this year, even when head coach Andy Farrell lost the services of some of the regular wings in his squad due to injuries.

Still keen to play for Ireland at Test level

“Yes, definitely, obviously with certain situations,” Baloucoune said when asked if he was hopeful of being included in the Irish squad for their Six Nations Grand Slam defence.

“Mack Hansen was out, and a few players were out, Jimmy O’Brien as well, so I definitely saw it as an opportunity to get back in the squad.

“[That was] obviously not the case but I wouldn’t say my performances have been up to where I’ve needed, so it’s on me to get back to that level of performance.”

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