SCOTLAND launch a new era of sevens rugby this weekend on the Gold Coast in Australia which the old and the young members of the squad hope could lead to a Commonwealth Games medal in Glasgow in 2014.
Under new coach Phil Greening, who led England to Commonwealth silver in Melbourne, the Scottish squad is being encouraged to believe that they plot a route among the elite of world sevens and not only push for Commonwealth success but dream of playing for GB in the Olympic Games in Rio, when rugby is welcomed to the world’s greatest sporting event in 2016.
The size of the challenge is underlined this weekend, however, where Scotland face hosts Australia, Gold Coast title holders Fiji and Tonga. A drew Turnbull is one player in the Scotland side who is not getting carried away. The 30-year-old former Watsonian and Edinburgh winger is a true world expert at sevens, with a turn of pace and ability to put on the burners even when seemingly at full speed, but he needs more back-up.
“I can still remember vividly taking part in Hong Kong for the first time in 2004, in front of 40,000 people,” he said, “and while New Zealand, Fiji and Samoa are still the big teams to beat, there are many more teams now who can beat each other.
“It’s fantastic for the series and for sevens rugby, but the goal for us has to be back among them all, fighting for the quarter-finals and semi-finals in tournaments. It’s been a really enjoyable time to play on the circuit and it has definitely brought me on as a rugby player and given me a lot of career highlights, but I want to push on. Graham Shiel came in and pushed the whole squad on last year, and we actually started really well last season and were very close to the cup quarter-finals, losing by a score to Wales twice, and then we suffered the loss of a few players through injury and it started to slide away. So the aim this year is to start with a bang and then keep it going.”
At the other end of the spectrum is teenager Chris Dean, fresh out of Edinburgh Academy. He has been a star of schools rugby, playing both flanker and centre for his school and appearing in four Murrayfield cup finals, winning one at under-15 and two at under-18 level. After going through a testing pre-season, in which seasoned pros were left prostrate daily by Greening, he is beginning to grasp what international sevens is all about.
“It has been fantastic – tough but fantastic,” said Dean, one of 51 series debutants this weekend. “I didn’t really know what to expect in my first season in professional rugby. It has certainly been a lot of hard work and I’ve never been as fit as I am, and never felt my skills were as sharp as they are now either, but I have really enjoyed it. I have not really had much sevens exposure growing up, other than playing in the junior Commonwealth Games last year in the Isle of Man, so I was quite sceptical when I was first offered a sevens contract.
“But, now looking at it, if my first chance had come with a XVs team I’d be stuck among much bigger guys and not getting much game-time, I’d imagine, whereas now I’m looking forward to taking part in a world sevens tournament in Australia.”
SCOTLAND 7s SQUAD: Chris Dean (Scotland 7s EDP), Michael Fedo (Scotland 7s), Rory Hughes (Scotland 7s EDP), Peter Jericevich (Ayr), Colin Gregor (Scotland 7s) (captain), Mark Robertson (Scotland 7s), Andrew Turnbull (Scotland 7s), Michael Maltman (Scotland 7s), Colin Shaw (Scotland 7s), Alex Glashan (Scotland 7s EDP), James Fleming (Scotland 7s), Liam Draycott (Currie).
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Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 19 June 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
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