SCOTLAND’S bid to make a mark on the first world sevens tournament to be staged in Glasgow has been boosted with the naming of Edinburgh pros Jim Thompson and John Houston in the squad for the weekend.
The SRU’s decision to move the HSBC World Sevens Series leg to Scotstoun has captured the imagination of the west coast and some of the world’s top sevens teams will be popping into Glasgow schools this week to further promote sevens and rugby in general, and the inaugural Emirates Airline Glasgow Sevens on Saturday and Sunday.
However, breaking their duck this season and reaching the quarter-finals of the main cup tournament is the clear priority for coach Graham Shiel and he is hopeful that adding Houston and Thompson to a squad of players who have been part of Scotland’s first full-time sevens squad and so are well versed in world sevens can make the difference.
Shiel admitted that whittling the 18-man training squad down to 12 had been tough, with Jed-Forest brothers Gregor and Lewis Young both left out, but the key for the former Scotland centre was ensuring he has a team that know each other as well as the game inside out.
“With 18 players to select from, this is one of the first times we have had such depth to our squad this season,” Shiel said, “but it has made selecting the 12 very difficult as everyone involved has merited selection.
“I have selected players on their current form and in terms of how they are performing in their position, so we have the strongest team right across the field, creating the right balance to the team. The majority of the 12 have been involved at some stage on the circuit this year. Therefore, I believe we have a team that will draw from current experiences and who have a hunger to move forward in the competition. We welcome Edinburgh Rugby’s John Houston and Jim Thompson. They both have fantastic sevens knowledge. And as well as John and Jim, we have Scott Riddell and Struan Dewar back in the side.
“Struan has had a tough season with injury but he has worked hard to get back to full fitness and his ability and experience are hugely important to our performance. Scott is one of Scotland’s most recognised sevens specialists and he always performs to the highest level.”
Edinburgh wingers Andrew Turnbull, Mark Robertson and James Fleming remain in the squad, as does veteran sevens star Colin Gregor, Mike Fedo, the former Watsonian, Glasgow Hawks’ back row Ross Miller, who is supported by the sportscotland institute, and youngsters Sean Kennedy and Adam Ashe.
Scotland have been competitive in every tournament and run the top nations close on occasions, but have so far failed to reach the last eight in any of the seven tournaments staged around the globe this season and so are tied for 11th in the series with Kenya.
They have a tradition, however, of peaking at the end of the circuit with their best results in recent years coming in the Edinburgh event, including a semi-final appearance.
They have had harder draws than that of this weekend, where they have avoided the top two sides currently in the world, New Zealand and Fiji. They open on Saturday morning (11.58am) against Wales, who are currently seventh in the series rankings, and then face South Africa, third in the world at present, at 3.04pm and finish against Russia (5.53pm), who have taken part in only one event this year, in Japan. The Scots need to win two of the three ties to qualify for the last eight and skipper Gregor admitted last week that he is confident that, with what is shaping up to be a capacity 15,000 crowd of mostly Scots behind them at Scotstoun on Saturday, they are capable of beating all three sides to set up a quarter-final in Sunday’s knockout stages.
The SRU have received support from the Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council for the move from Murrayfield, as well as Glasgow Life, EventScotland and sportscotland and they are hopeful that this event will provide a new focus and interest for sevens in the build-up to the Commonwealth Games in 2014, with spin-offs for rugby in general across Glasgow.
Tickets are still available for the event on both days, but the SRU are reporting sales to be heading close to the capacity 30,000 over the two days.
The 12 players to compete at the Emirates Airline Glasgow 7s are:
Colin Gregor (Scotland 7s), Andrew Turnbull (Scotland 7s), Mark Robertson (Scotland 7s), Struan Dewar (Scotland 7s), James Fleming (Scotland 7s), John Houston (Edinburgh Rugby), Jim Thompson (Edinburgh Rugby), Michael Fedo (Team Northumbria), *Ross Miller (Glasgow Hawks), Sean Kennedy (Stirling County), Adam Ashe (Stirling County).
Tickets are still available for the event on both days, www.glasgow7s.com/buy-tickets