Scotland skipper backs Mark Robertson to have Rio impact

Mark Robertson in action for Scotland Sevens against Fiji. Picture: Alan Havey/SNS/SRU

Mark Robertson in action for Scotland Sevens against Fiji. Picture: Alan Havey/SNS/SRU

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Scotland Sevens captain Scott Wight was delighted to see his close friend and team mate Mark Robertson selected for the Olympics – and he believes the 31 year old can make a real impact for Team GB in Rio.

On Tuesday, Robertson and Mark Bennett were the two Scots named in the men’s sevens team for next month’s event in Brazil.

Wight, 30, has known Robertson for many years as they grew up coming through the Melrose youth set-up together.

Over the last few seasons they have also teamed up with Scotland Sevens to great effect, Wight earning 20 caps and Robertson 47.

They both recently played a key role in the final World Series event of 2015/16 when they triumphed at Twickenham in May.

Yesterday they were together again at Selkirk’s Philiphaugh ground holding a “School of Sevens” camp for local youngsters from the Borders.

Wight said: “I have grown up with Mark and known him for many years so when I heard that he was in the Team GB squad I was delighted.

“At times last season on the World Series we used Mark off the bench for Scotland and that was a great weapon. He has great pace and manages to make yards into the opposition territory which can put them on the back foot. He also has a lot of experience under his belt at the highest level so he knows what it takes to win ties and he is a really good communicator on the pitch.

“I have seen the ups and downs of his career and know how much this means to him and his family and friends. In a way he has had to re-invent himself a bit as a player in recent times, moving to the forwards in sevens and adjusting to the ever-changing game, but he has just knuckled down and really got on with it.

“It is also great for young players from the Borders to see that Mark came from where they came from and it shows what can be achieved.

“I am also pleased for Mark Bennett because he has done well to switch from the 15-a-side game to the sevens game so quickly to impress head coach Simon Amor and the other staff.

“He hasn’t turned out for Scotland at sevens too often in the last couple of years because he has had 15-a-side commitments, but he did well at Glasgow 2014 and runs some clever angles.

“He is a really talented player and knowing the English and Welsh guys that are involved pretty well from the World Series I think this squad could do pretty well when they get out to Rio.”

Meanwhile, Scotland legend Scott Hastings - who has commentated on a lot of sevens events in the last couple of years – believes that Scott Riddell and Jamie Farndale can count themselves very unlucky not to be going to the Olympics.

Initially there were five Scots – Robertson, Bennett, Riddell, Farndale and Gavin Lowe – in the extended training squad that met in late May before Lee Jones and Joseva Nayacavou were called-up too.

Forwards Riddell, 30, and Farndale, 22, were thought to be in good positions to earn a place on the plane next Thursday, but it was not to be.

Hastings said: “I think Scott Riddell must have been very close. He has been a stand-out performer for Scotland of late and around the breakdown area he is up there with some of the best around.

“Farndale was Scotland’s player of 2015/16 and he has adapted well to the sevens game and I thought he might have had a good chance. However, he was injured during the training camp and missed one of the warm-up events and that may have just left him with too much catching up to do.

“It will be tough for these guys right now and they will be hurting, I know from experience having missed out on selection for some big matches in my career. They will refocus though and start to look forward to the 2016/17 World Series while Simon Amor is a very experienced coach and I am sure he and Team GB will head to Brazil confident that they can do well.”

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