SCOTLAND speedster James Fleming insists it’s not all globetrotting glamour being part of the international sevens circuit.
This weekend’s Emirates Airlines Glasgow 7s at Scotstoun is the eighth leg of the world series and, since October, the Scotland squad have been plying their trade in Australia’s Gold Coast, Dubai, Port Elizabeth, Wellington, Las Vegas, Hong Kong and Tokyo. Nice work if you can get, you might say?
“Firstly, it’s a massive privilege to represent your country to an international standard throughout the year in a way that is quite unique – the main international squad don’t compete as regularly as we do. But it is hard work,” insisted Fleming, who has scored 62 tries in 26 tournaments on the circuit.
“We train Monday to Friday, starting at 8.30am and don’t leave until 4pm,” he continued. “We travel to Ravenscraig so I’m out of the door the back of 7am and home at 5pm. Some of my friends are pros in the 15s and they don’t train that intensively. It’s a different kind of game and we need to train in longer blocks to build up for competition, whereas they need to recover for a game at the weekend.
“From the point of view of going around the world it is a great opportunity to visit some of these places and to be supported as we are massively wherever we go. But it’s not as glamorous as it sounds. A usual week for us would be – Monday start to get over jetlag, which is never fun and can take a few days; then train all week building up to the tournament. There isn’t much opportunity to get out and see the places.
“It is very much airport-bus-hotel-training, compete Saturday and Sunday and then we might fly on to another tournament early on the Monday. All these places sound amazing but we certainly don’t experience them like the average traveller.” Fleming, 27, is a product of Perthshire RFC and has the claim to fame of twice playing the T in the Park music festival with his former heavy metal band Allergo. This weekend, at a sold-out Scotstoun, he is looking forward to soaking up the decibels rather than producing them. He said: “Playing in front of a home crowd is a special opportunity and I’m looking forward to it.”
With Scotland currently placed seventh in the overall standings they are on course for a best ever ranking, having never previously finished higher than ninth. Coach Calum MacRae, who is in his first season in the role, insists it’s not a factor that is dominating thoughts as they go into the home tournament in Pool C, which also contains Portugal, Wales and Fiji.
“It’s always good to set goals but ours were always performance goals rather than ranking,” said MacRae. “There has obviously been talk about us aiming for our highest ever finish and that’s brilliant but, ultimately, that doesn’t change our focus this week, which is the three games we have on day one.”
Scotland reached the semi-finals in Glasgow last season and have achieved a similar feat on this year’s circuit in Wellington, but MacRae is wary of the side’s day one opponents. “They are three very good teams,” said the former Melrose and Border Reivers player. “They’ve all shown that on their day they can turn over any team in the competition. But we’ve shown good form against them all this season. Portugal are a hard working outfit and play good football, move the ball well.
“Wales over the course of their history have produced very good sevens players. They’ll certainly be hurting off the back of the result in Hong Kong [a 34-0 win for Scotland in the Bowl semi-final]. I was very pleased with the way our guys performed that day but we won’t be resting on our laurels. We know they will come out and put a performance in.
“Fiji are a very elusive and dangerous team. They probably shift the ball quicker than any other team with their offloading game. We’ve experience playing against them twice this year and I think our performance in Port Elizabeth [a 19-12 pool defeat] against them, when we lock down in defence we can run any team like that close.”
Scotland face Fiji in the final tie on Saturday and will hope to have already booked a place in Sunday’s Cup quarter-finals by then. The Wales clash could be key to that and their coach, Gareth Williams, said: “Scotland are our bogey side – we have failed to perform against them this season so there is a personal challenge for every player to raise their game and get stuck in to them.”
Subplots to the penultimate tournament of the season include the race for the overall title, with New Zealand – the champions for the past four years – currently third behind South Africa and Fiji. There is also fourth-placed England’s bid to secure Team GB an automatic place at the Rio Olympics. They need to finish in that top four and are currently nine points ahead of Australia, who they are paired with in the Glasgow pool stage.
Scott Riddell (captain)
James Eddie (Glasgow)
Gavin Lowe (Glasgow)
Damien Hoyland (Edinburgh)
Chris Dean (Edinburgh)
SCOTLAND’S POOL C FIXTURES