Roddy Grant enjoyed a stellar sevens career, representing Scotland on the global circuit, playing Hong Kong three times, a World Cup and a Commonwealth Games, but his record at the birthplace of the abbreviated game is nothing to write home about.
Grant, pictured, turned out for Gala at the Melrose Sevens – the 126th staging of which takes place at the Greenyards today – but suffered early exits both times. He was drafted in as an emergency injury reserve for Free State University in the final they won in 2007 but didn’t get on.
Today the Botswana-born former flanker will take an Edinburgh Rugby squad to the famous tournament hoping to land the first piece of silverware of a fledgling coaching career which is only a few months old.
The 29-year-old was forced to admit defeat in his battle with a knee injury and announced his retirement on Boxing Day. He didn’t have much time to mope, however, as he was given the opportunity to go to London Scottish until the end of the season with Sean Lineen as part of the Exiles’ new link-up with the SRU.
Scottish have a free weekend and Grant was delighted to get the chance to take a strong-looking Edinburgh squad, which includes Will Helu and Scotland Sevens duo Damien Hoyland and Chris Dean, to Melrose.
“There will be expectation because we are professionals,” admitted Grant, “though out of all the teams we will actually have had the least time to prepare. How many sessions have we had? None is the short answer.
“Fijians can do that [just turn up and play] but for players who don’t play much sevens there needs to be a bit of preparation and structure. I as a coach am blessed because they’re good rugby players. But sevens is such a different game from 15s – the ball and the pitch and the fact that you pass the ball are about the only things the same.
“Guys like Damien Hoyland and Chris Dean have lots of experience, but IRB sevens is a lot different to Melrose where it’s knockout straight away and there’s only ten in the squad, so just three subs rather than five on the world series.
“So that’s tough on a coaching side, managing players. It puts more pressure on the fitness of the players.”
Despite his patchy personal record at the event, Grant believes it remains one of the great days of the Scottish rugby calendar.
“Yes, it’s the first ever sevens tournament and I know the Fijians have great regard for Melrose. They’ve been good over the years incorporating guest teams from Fiji, South Africa and the likes of Randwick and national teams.
“Also to have the BBC there makes it special for amateur players to get that coverage and it’s a highlight for many players’ careers.”
Grant believes the swift move into professional coaching has helped him get over the agony of having to hang up his boots at a relatively young age.
“I got injured at the end of last season and had surgery,” he explained. “I was trying to get back, I was playing, but it was unbearable. I just could not continue.
“It has unfortunately affected me now, I can’t do a whole lot. My way of life has changed. With that I suppose it got to the point where the surgeon advised I couldn’t physically continue. I suppose it wasn’t a 24-hour thing, I knew it was going to happen. It is unfortunate, it still affects me now really. I can’t run around any more – I have to take painkillers to run water on. But it is fine, the price you pay eventually. Whether you retire with an injury or not, professional sport, great as it is, leaves its mark on most players.
“I’ve always wanted to coach and it’s great for an opportunity like this to come in straight away. I didn’t want to hang around, wallow and feel sorry for myself. There are always different schools of thought. Some of the ex-players and guys who have retired said I should step away and take time away from rugby. Others said ‘stay busy’. For me it could not have been any better.”
Glasgow Warriors won the last two Melrose Sevens but have not entered this year. The other invitational teams are Belgium and French development side Seventise.