Melrose Sevens buzz strong as stars come to play

Niko Matawalu helped Glasgow to success in the Melrose Sevens last season. Picture: SNS
Niko Matawalu helped Glasgow to success in the Melrose Sevens last season. Picture: SNS
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The buzz has been steadily building in the Borders this week ahead of the Aberdeen Asset Management Melrose Sevens and, today, 24 teams will battle it out at The Greenyards in a bid to lift the Ladies Cup.

Every year, more than 10,000 supporters flock to the home of rugby sevens for the unique event in the Scottish rugby calendar. Everyone has their own special memories of the tournament, whether it was seeing the great Kelso side of the 1980s in action, watching Australian legend David Campese lead Randwick to the trophy 25 years ago, marvelling at the skills of Waisale Serevi in 2009 when he turned out for Leeds Metropolitan University or seeing Melrose win in dramatic circumstances in 2011.

Last year, the crowd were wowed by Fijian Niko Matawalu and American Carlin Isles as their promptings helped 
Glasgow Warriors go home with the silverware.

It is the day all club players want to be involved because it gives them a chance to test themselves against the best, play in front of a bigger crowd than they ever will do again and perhaps appear on television.

The BBC will once again be showing action from the day live and, just days after returning from the Tokyo Sevens with Scotland Sevens, Colin Gregor will be a member of the team in the studio.

Given his love of the abbreviated game, the 33-year-old would probably rather be out on the pitch, but he has been smiling all week after he moved into fourth in the all-time World Series points scorers list in Japan. His try against New Zealand in the Plate final defeat moved him ahead of the great Fijian Serevi on the list and – after 56 tournaments and 1312 points on the circuit – he is behind only England’s Ben Gollings, Samoa’s Uale Mai and New Zealand’s Tomasi Cama.

As such, he is as good a man as any to run the rule over today’s event and he said: “In terms of my own achievements last week, well it is pretty special, but it is probably something I will take more pride in once my career has finished.

“The pleasing thing for me this year has been that the squad have competed well on the circuit and the fact that we have pushed New Zealand close on a couple of occasions and reached a semi-final shows we have good belief as a group.

“As for today, I was pleased to be able to play last year for Glasgow Hawks and I am looking forward to it. Last year, the Warriors were very good and played some quality sevens and they will be up there again challenging, while it will be interesting to see how a young Wasps team do.

“Edinburgh Accies proved last year that club sides can get to the final if they get on a good run and I think that the likes of Gala and Jed-Forest will have benefitted from good run-outs at the Gala Sevens last week. They both reached the final and looked good while Melrose, having won the overall Kings of the Sevens title last year, will be keen to do well as always.”

Captain James Eddie, Scotland Sevens cap Fraser Lyle and Matawalu will spearhead Glasgow Warriors challenge. Wasps will feature Piers O’Conor and Tom Howe, fresh from their stint with England under-20s in the recent Six Nations, and England Sevens extended squad members Callum Wilson, Jack Walsh and Sam Stanley.

The two other guest sides are Germany and North West University, from Potchefstroom in South Africa.

Melrose, who lost in the last four to Edinburgh Accies last year, will give a late fitness test to Tito Mua before finalising their squad. They will be led by Fraser Thomson, while Callum Anderson has a lot of sevens experience.

Today’s event is the second of ten on the Kings of the Sevens circuit and, six days ago, Gala won their own event.

Their squad is boosted by the inclusion of Edinburgh Rugby scrum-half Grayson Hart, who has been capped by Scotland in the XV-a-side arena.

Jed-Forest’s squad features four men with Scotland Sevens experience in the shape of Darren Gillespie, Fraser Harkness and the Young twins, Gregor and Lewis.

Edinburgh Accies’ squad includes Scotland Sevens men Nyle Godsmark and Michael Fedo, the latter on the road back from long-term injury, as well as Alex Blair and David Sole’s son Jamie. Heriot’s reached the last four 12 months ago and they are always a fairly tidy sevens unit led by Graham Wilson. Gavin Hastings’ son Adam is due to turn out for Watsonians, while Scotland Sevens’ record try scorer Andrew Turnbull is in the Boroughmuir squad.