SCOTLAND’S rugby sevens squad got an 11th-hour stay of execution last night when the Scottish Rugby Union board voted unanimously to retain the team and keep them competing in the top-tier HSBC World Series.
It had been feared that the team could be axed or downgraded and sent to compete on the less prestigious European circuit. Indeed, Scotland’s director of rugby Scott Johnson told the players several months ago to snap up any job offers that they might have. A few of them will doubtless be pleased that they didn’t heed his advice.
The positive recent results by the team, heritage of the game in Scotland and incentive of contributing to a future Team GB Olympic 7s squad means Scottish Rugby will continue to support a national 7s team.SRU statement
The SRU said the decision to maintain the team was taken because of their recent surge in form and the possibility of contributing to the British team in Rio de Janeiro next year when rugby sevens makes its debut as an Olympic sport.
The governing body also cited Scotland’s historical role in a form of the game that was invented in Melrose in 1883.
A statement released last night by the SRU said: “The Board of Scottish Rugby today (May 14th) unanimously confirmed the national 7s team will continue to compete in the HSBC Sevens World Series.
“The positive recent results by the team, heritage of the game in Scotland and incentive of contributing to a future Team GB
Olympic 7s squad means Scottish Rugby will continue to support a national 7s team.”
The SRU had recently aired concerns over the funding of the team, particularly in the likely event of it losing the annual Glasgow Sevens tournament, the Scottish leg of the HSBC World Series. It is expected that France will inherit this slot, denying the SRU an important revenue stream.
The loss of the Glasgow tournament may yet impact on the Scottish squad. The exact nature of the SRU’s funding has not been revealed and there is still a possibility that the players will be put on part-time, rather than full-time, contracts. There is a meeting of players and management on Monday to iron out the future structure of the squad. The obvious danger is that by downgrading the players to part-time employees the SRU is simply setting them up to fail against rivals who are all full-time professionals.
While the players and coaches will rightly be celebrating this stay of execution, the fear remains it may prove to be a reprieve rather than a full pardon.
There is one final tournament of the current season to complete, in London this weekend, with Twickenham sold out for both days. What looked just 24 hours ago like Scotland’s last hurrah on the world sevens stage will now become the national squad’s first opportunity to repay the backing that they have received from all sections of Scotland’s rugby community.
It appears that SRU chief executive Mark Dodson anticipated the tidal wave of outrage that would have fallen upon his head had the team been axed.
Dodson has been feeling the heat of late, with his own position in the organisation under scrutiny following the fiasco surrounding David Davies, the Edinburgh Rugby managing director who quit on Saturday night.
Davies had been appointed by Dodson but found himself the target of a players’ revolt when he took the decision to sack the club’s long-serving team manager Lynsey Dingwall.
Edinburgh, meanwhile, announced yesterday that head coach Alan Solomons has signed a 12-month contract extension. The South African this month became the first coach to guide a Scottish side to a European final. Edinburgh lost to Gloucester in the European Challenge Cup final.