Scott Hastings: Sevens should be as important as golf to Scots

The Scotland sevens side won at Twickenham last weekend but their long-term future could be under threat. Picture: Gary Hutchison/SNS
The Scotland sevens side won at Twickenham last weekend but their long-term future could be under threat. Picture: Gary Hutchison/SNS
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Scotland should view its status as the birthplace of rugby sevens with the same sense of pride it does in being the home of golf.

That is the view of Grand Slam legend Scott Hastings who said he is “quite upset” by reports that Scotland could stop participating as a separate nation on the elite world circuit of the abbreviated game and become subsumed into a Great Britain team with England and Wales after next season.

Hastings, who is an enthusiastic exponent of sevens and travels the globe commentating on the HSBC world series, told The Scotsman: “I had heard a rumour that this could be in the pipeline and then this week the story has come out. I am quite upset about it actually.

“I just don’t see the logic in sacrificing three teams for the sake of one. It would be incredibly frustrating as you can see how things have been building with our sevens and the success they are starting to achieve.”

The reports of a merged GB team came just days after Scotland defended their London Sevens crown at Twickenham, beating England in the final and earning a historic first win over New Zealand 
in the quarter-finals. That came off the back of a runners-up spot in Paris the previous weekend.

Scotland’s elite sevens programme was threatened with closure two years ago but earned a reprieve. It appears to be in peril again with suggestions that, after next season, a GB side could play on the world series instead, saving costs for the three home unions, assisting with preparation for the Olympics and appeasing other nations around the world who are unhappy with a situation that sees the British nations able to nominate one qualifying team for the Games, while maintaining two other spots on the circuit.

Sevens made its Olympic debut in Rio last summer, with a Team GB that included Scots Mark Bennett and Mark Robertson, winning a silver medal.

The SRU said earlier this week that it was committed to entering Scotland in next year’s HSBC series, Sevens World Cup and Commonwealth Games in Australia but would not comment further on the GB speculation.

“When we only have two professional teams then our sevens programme is vital,” continued Hastings. “You look at youngsters like George Horne playing so superbly, it’s a great school for guys like that.

“But more widely you have to just look at the way sevens is exploding at the moment right around the world and that is only going to keep going. Why would Scotland not want to be part of that? We should take great pride in being the home of rugby sevens as much as we do as the home of golf.

“I suspect the unions are sensing a chance to save some cash but I think it would be short-sighted. I can also see how other countries might have issues but I’d like to think people could get around the table and sort things out.”

Hastings does not view the prospect of Scotland maintaining a lesser sevens presence, perhaps on a second-tier circuit with a view to still competing independently in World Cups and Commonwealth Games, as an appealing one.

“The way sevens is progressing now you can’t be half-hearted in your approach. The skills, the analysis work, strength and conditioning and fitness just keeps going up and up every year. These guys are like superhumans now. “I remember Daley Thompson, who knows about all-round sport, came to the sevens in Rio and was gobsmacked by the athleticism of the players, saying they had all the attributes – sprinters, endurance runners, wrestlers, take your pick – rolled into one.”

Hastings was in the Sky Sports commentary box for last Sunday’s glory at Twickenham and hailed it as an “outstanding achievement” by Calum MacRae’s men. “Winning it last year was special,” said Hastings, who captained Scotland at Sevens in the 1990s and won at Melrose, where it all began in 1883, with Watsonians in 1996. “But the way they did it last weekend was sensational. Coming from 21-0 down against New Zealand to win 24-21 was amazing and then in the semi-final against the US and that final against England [which was won 12-5] they just fought and fought.

“It was an honour to commentate on such a great Scottish victory, though I did try to stay as impartial as I possibly could!”