THE catalyst of Melrose’s win at their own sevens tournament back in 2011 will today return to the Greenyards in opposition colours as the world famous event once again takes centre stage.
Local lad Scott Wight was a mainstay of the Melrose side that won the Kings of the Sevens overall title in 2010 and 2011 and was on top form in the final of the Melrose Sevens that latter year as the hosts came out on top against Hamilton from South Africa.
Now a professional with Glasgow Warriors the 27-year-old will play in the event today for his draft club Aberdeen Grammar.
Twelve months ago unfancied Grammar caused a few eyebrows to be raised when they reached the semi-finals only to lose out to eventual winners Saracens. However, with playmaker Wight and Scotland Sevens flyer James Fleming included in a strong-looking ten-man squad nobody will be taking them lightly this time around.
The men from Rubislaw take on Selkirk in round one and their skipper Greig Ryan said: “We really enjoyed last year and we were gutted to lose out in the last four. I think we showed people that day that there are good sevens players elsewhere in the country other than the Borders and we are looking forward to the tournament. Having players of Scott and James’ calibre is a bonus as they are experienced sevens players, but we know we have to play well as a team and are not looking any further than the first match.”
Wight’s inclusion for Grammar is just one interesting story on a day that always brings out the best in Scottish rugby. As well as Fleming, fellow Scotland Sevens players Lewis Young (Jed-Forest), Alex Glashan and Chris Dean (Edinburgh Accies), Rory Hughes (Stirling County) and Michael Maltman (Heriot’s) have been released to their clubs.
It is perhaps a pity that the likes of Colin Gregor, Michael Fedo and Andrew Turnbull have not also been made available to play for clubs too, but nevertheless having Fleming et al on show is good for the crowd.
As current Kings of the Sevens and finalists last year, Jed-Forest will be ones to watch yet again even though they are without the likes of Darren Gillespie (now in New Zealand and a Scotland Sevens player) and Andrew Nagle (now Melrose) who were key men in 2012. They do have a good squad though with the aforementioned Lewis Young, Iain Chisholm, Nua Fono-Hunt and Michael Weekley ones to watch.
Chisholm said: “We loved our run to the final last year and when you run out on the pitch at Melrose the crowd is something completely different than what we are used to. It gives you a buzz.
“Last week at the Gala Sevens we felt we were unlucky to lose out to Hawick and I feel this year there is not as much pressure on us after 15s relegation, so we just need to go out there and play our own game.”
Melrose, who lost to Jed in the semis last year, will as always be roared on by a huge home following.
With Scotland Sevens cap Callum Anderson having returned to the club from Aberdeen Grammar and Glasgow Warriors’ EDPs Fraser Thomson and Bruce Dick in the squad on paper it looks a good ten.
Andrew Skeen is one of the best sevens exponents in the country and always has a trick or two up his sleeve while the squad is completed by Graham Dodds, Grant Runciman, Scott McCormick, Bruce Colvine, Allan Dodds and Nagle.
Melrose will meet the winners of an intriguing round one tie between Watsonians and Glasgow Hawks with both having named strong squads. For ’Sonians Mike Ker and Rory Steele could be key while it will be good to see up-and-coming youngsters Sean Yacoubian and Harry Walker play on the big stage for Hawks.
Of the other Scottish clubs who could be dark horses for the title, Gala and Heriot’s probably fit the bill.
Gala are on a high having won their own sevens for the first time since 1995 last week while the Heriot’s squad looks strong with the previously mentioned Maltman joined by the likes of Fraser Brown and Jason Hill up front and there is pace out wide in the shape of Colin Goudie and Harry Boisseau.
It is also great to see that Howe of Fife have been invited to the event after winning the Legacy Sevens Series in 2012 and they have a number of starlets to keep an eye out for.
Of course all of these teams will have their work cut out to get the better of the “guest” sides with reigning champions Saracens, Worcester Warriors and Clermont Auvergne expected to be strong and India somewhat of an unknown quantity.
Saracens are led by England Sevens caps Joe Maddock, Andy Saull, James Short and Nils Mordt with exciting young players such as Nick Tompkins, Nathan Earle, Tom Jubb and Scott Spurling also involved.
Duncan Taylor, who played for Saracens in the event last year, has since gone on to earn a Scotland A cap, but is not involved today.
Saracens coach Joe Shaw said: “We want to give a good account of ourselves. Melrose has a rich tradition in terms of the sevens format and as we are holders of the competition we have put together another strong squad.”
The Worcester squad includes three players with first-team experience in Ollie Hayes, Ben Howard and Richard de Carpentier while Academy youngsters Josh Buggea and Joe Nellany are also involved.
Stirling County: Adam Ashe, Brian Archibald, Ruaridh Leishman, Colin Turnbull, Johnny Hope, Byron McGuigan, Rory Hughes, Ross Aitken, Graham Lindsay, Shaun McDonald.
Kelso: Michael Robertson, Dom Buckley, Alan Haig, Tom Wilson, Murray Hastie, Gregg Minto, Mark Wilson, Andrew Haig, Robbie Neilson, Stef Carnegie.
Ayr: Peter Jericevich, Murray McConnell, Ross Curle, Grant Anderson, Robbie Fergusson, Richard Dalgleish, Graham Fisken, Colin White, Sylvain Diez, Cameron Taylor.
Currie: Ross Weston, Malcolm Peacock, Mark Cairns, Rhys Davies, Alan Whittingham, Liam Draycott, Gregor Hunter, Adam Hinds, Murray Johnstone, Jamie Forbes.
Boroughmuir: Andrew Rose, Jordan Webster, Jamie Scott, Jackson Achilles, Sam Johnson, David Reekie, Keith Buchan, Ross Bradford, Damien Hoyland, Robert Cairns.
Worcester Warriors: Richard de Carpentier, Josh Buggea, Mike Ellery, Tom Chapman, Joe Nellany, John Hughes, Ben Howard, Ed Telwright, Ollie Hayes, Ashley Elders.
Stewart’s Melville: Angus Lean, Donald Sangster, Ben Manning, Rory Cook, Seb Trotter, Craig Marshall, Adam Greig, Adam Howie, Neil Bowie, Stuart MacDonald.
Gala: Euan Dods, Craig Keddie, Gary Graham, Ben Murray, Lee Millar, Chris Auld, Grant Somerville, Bryce Turner, George Graham, Gavin Young.
India: Rohit Singh Sivach, Prince Khatri, Nitin Dagar, Jagga Singh, Avinash Shinde, Guatam Dagar, Vikas Khatri, Surinder Singh, Neeraj Khatri, Pulkit Bhat.
Langholm: Alasdair Cavers, Steven Nicol, Stuart Graham, Mark Young, Keith Davidson, Niall Cubbon, Colin Jardine, Neil Cully, Scott Howatson, Tom Cooper.
Hawick: Stuart Graham, Keith Davies, Rory Scott, Ali Weir, Rory Hutton, Scott McLeod, Neil Renwick, Graham Hogg, Greig Anderson, John Coutts.
Clermont Auvergne: Julien Kazubek, Hugues Bastide, Romain Briatte, Ibrahim Kante, Kevin Boudot, Pierre Santalier, Freddy Cabantous, Alexandre Mourot, Julien Mazet, Jean Ric.
Watsonians (from): Tom Wright, Tom Hart, Chris Scott, Mike Ker, Rory Steele, Scott McKean, Harris Grant, Ewan Miller, Ramsay Young, Dom Johnston, Ross Aitken, Jack Ferguson.
Glasgow Hawks: Ross Milller, Sean Yacoubian, Grant Strang, Haddon McPherson, Gavin MacDonald, Jonno Wright, Harry Walker, Tom Steven, Tony Herron, Sean Murray.
Melrose: Andrew Nagle, Graham Dodds, Grant Runciman, Bruce Colvine, Andrew Skeen, Allan Dodds, Callum Anderson, Fraser Thomson, Bruce Dick, Scott McCormick.
Selkirk: Angus Duckett, Matt Kissick, Ewan MacDougall, Fraser Harkness, Rory Banks, Gavin Craig, Darren Clapperton, Stuart Forrest, Scott Hendrie, Michael Davies.
Aberdeen Grammar: Tony McGinness, Greig Ryan, Murray Douglas, Steven Aitken, Peceli Nacamavuto, James Fleming, Scott Wight, Will Wardlaw, Morgan Ward, Rob Aloe.
Jed-Forest: Donald Grieve, Michael Weekley, Glen Young, Noa Fono-Hunt, Iain Chisholm, Lewis Young, David Gobby, Robert Hogg, Scott Raeburn, Chris Gillan.
Edinburgh Accies: Chris Dean, Nyle Godsmark, Callum Reid, Euan Bonner, Ruairidh Bonner, Alex Blair, Matt Couper, Tom Drennan, Alex Glashan, Ewen Campbell.
Howe of Fife: Chris Mason, Angus Guthrie, Fraser Clark, Stewart Lathangie, Dom Martin, Girvin Imrie, Murray Calcutt, Marcus Black, Graham Thomson, Rory Drummond.
Heriot’s: Michael Maltman, Fraser Brown, Jason Hill, Max Learmonth, CJ Osazuwa, Graham Wilson, Cameron Ferguson, Harry Boisseau, Mike Penn, Colin Goudie.
Dundee HSFP: Richie Hawkins, Iain Wilson, Danny Levison, Richie McIvor, Andy Dymock, Jamie Urquhart, Andy Mclean, Callum Bowie, Taylor Paris, Rory Taylor.
Peebles: Warren Kearney, Dalton Hall, Alan Warnock, Martin Cruickshank, Donald Anderson, James Hemera, Connor Blyth, Callum Scott, Greig Raeburn, Dale Clancy.
Saracens: Tom Jubb, Andy Saull, Scott Spurling, Hayden Stringer, Jack Wilson, Nathan Earle, Joe Maddock, Nils Mordt, Aaron Morris, James Short, Ben Spencer, Nick Tompkins.