Players of the calibre of Carlin Isles, Niko Matawalu, Zar Lawrence and Colin Gregor will be involved today in what is shaping up to be one of the most exciting Melrose Sevens tournaments in a number of years.
American flyer Isles and Fijian Matawalu will be in the Glasgow Warriors squad which will compete at the Greenyards for the first time. And given that their squad of ten is made up of ten sevens internationals – seven from Scotland, two from USA and one from Fiji – they will start the day as favourites.
Lawrence, the New Zealand sevens man, will be playing for the USA Tigers while Scotland sevens captain Gregor, like a number of his international team-mates, has been released to turn out for a club side and he will be wearing the colours of Glasgow Hawks. When you throw into the mix that on top of the Warriors and the Tigers two other guest sides, Clermont Auvergne and SMT Trinbago, are in the draw along with the hosts, who last won in 2011, and 19 other Scottish clubs, it promises to be a fascinating occasion.
For Scotland playmaker Gregor, 32, who led his country to the Bowl in Hong Kong a fortnight ago, it will be the first time he has played at the event since 2004 with Watsonians. As a result, a decade on he cannot wait to grace the Greenyards again. He said: “There is something really special about Melrose. When you are a young kid and you are finding out and learning about sevens you always hear about Melrose and then when you go there and watch or play in it you understand why. The crowd and atmosphere is like nothing else club players get the chance to perform in front of during the season. I was lucky enough to play for Watsonians at the Greenyards back in the day, but due to Scotland commitments haven’t been involved in a while. I am delighted to be released to play for Hawks while it is great to see so many of the other Scotland Sevens boys involved too.”
Indeed, of the 12-man squad on duty for Scotland Sevens in Hong Kong in March, 11 will be playing today, the only one missing being Andrew Turnbull who got married yesterday.
Gregor is playing for Hawks, Scott Wight, Lee Jones, Finlay Gillies, James Eddie and Mark Bennett will be with Warriors and Mark Robertson (Melrose), Michael Maltman (Heriot’s), James Johnstone (Hawick), Scott Riddell and Chris Dean (both Edinburgh Accies) will all be there. Also present will be Scotland Sevens pros Lewis Young (Jed-Forest), Gregor Young (Gala), Alex Glashan (Edinburgh Accies) and Neil Herron (Hawks).
Gregor continued: “I think, in this busy year for sevens culminating at Glasgow 2014, it is important the Scottish rugby public get to know more about me and the other guys and see us perform.
“The Melrose Sevens, because it draws in around 10,000 and is on television, is also a great shop window for young up-and-coming club talent to show others what they can do and I am excited to see some of them in action. In terms of the tournament it is going to be hard for anyone to beat Glasgow Warriors given the squad they have.
“Hawks trained with them this week and they were looking sharp. Guys like Isles and Matawalu will offer up great entertainment for the crowd.”
Having been edged out in the final by Saracens last year Clermont’s youth will be keen to go one better this time and lift the Ladies Cup while it will be interesting to see how the USA Tigers and SMT Trinbago do.
In terms of the top half of the draw, club sides who could make an impact are likely to be Ayr, Jed-Forest, Boroughmuir and Heriot’s, although the latter are resting a few players with next week’s RBS Cup final in mind. The safe money would be on the Warriors making the final.
The bottom half of the draw looks tough and open, with Gala and Melrose, who won the Gala Sevens last week in the first Kings of the Sevens, possibly on course to meet in the last eight.
Rose have a lot of pace in their squad with the likes of Callum Anderson, Damien Hoyland and South African Austin Lockington while Andrew Skeen is still one of Scotland’s top sevens. Aberdeen Grammar went well last year, reaching the semis, while Watsonians always take sevens seriously.