Though there have been two successful outings by Irish teams at the lower level of the 2017 FEI Nations Cup series, the first big test for new show jumping manager Rodrigo Pessoa happens on Friday when an elite squad goes for points at the French seaside town of La Baule.

La Baule will be Ireland’s first foray of the year in the Division One league, and will be one of four from which the country can claim vital points needed to stay at the top level of the team series for next year.

Under new FEI rules, a country is guaranteed invitations to six of the eight European Division 1 shows, with their four best results counting towards the league standings, so a top three finish in France will not just help team morale, but also reduce the pressure to play catch-up at subsequent shows.

Pessoa, one of the world’s most successful and best-known show jumpers, said at the beginning of the month: “La Baule will be the first step in our goal to maintain our position in the Super League Nations Cup series for next year.

“It is very important to have these rounds to prepare our team for the 2018 World Equestrian Games next year.

“Our three main objectives for the immediate future are to maintain our position in the top division of Nations Cup jumping, while this year’s European Championships will also act as a dress rehearsal for our third goal – which is the World Equestrian Games next year.

“La Baule is our first points-scoring round of the Nations Cup series. We are not taking it lightly and our aim will be to take maximum points.”

The new team manager’s squad for the five-star La Baule Nations Cup this Friday afternoon is:

Kevin Babington with Shorapur
Shane Breen with Golden Hawk
Michael Duffy and Belcanto Z
Denis Lynch with All Star
Shane Sweetnam and Chaqui Z

From these five Pessoa will select four for the team competition before Friday.

Ireland faces formidable opposition at the French show, and the full list of teams can be seen here.

Livestream from La Baule is available by subscription from from 1pm Irish time on Friday.

Meanwhile on the same day as La Baule takes place, Ireland will also field a team at the lower-division Nations Cup in Drammen, Norway, under the stewardship of Michael Blake, who was Chef d’Equipe when Ireland won back-to-back Nations Cups in Wellington and Ocala in the US earlier this year.

Ireland’s Drammen Chef d’Equipe Michael Blake

Blake’s Drammen squad is:
Alexander Butler with Hallowberry Cruz
Shane Carey with Quantum KS
Capt. Geoff Curran and Ringwood Glen
Cameron Hanley with Quirex
Mark McAuley and Utchan De Belheme

Blake said at the announcement: ““This is a very strong Irish squad with team members hoping to promote themselves onto the Super League squad later in the season.

“It will be a tough test in Drammen, with teams such as Britain and Belgium fielding their strongest teams hoping to gain points in their bid to get back into Division 1.”

The full line-up of teams contesting three-star Drammen is available here.

Livestream by subscription is available from Drammen via from  4pm Irish time on Friday.

Jack Burns

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