Glasgow 2014: Baton tours home of rugby sevens

The Queen’s Baton has visited the birthplace of one of the newest sports to join the Commonwealth Games.

Batonbearer Jane Sargent carries the Glasgow 2014 Queen's Baton through Melrose. Picture: Getty

Rugby sevens was first played in Melrose in the Scottish Borders in 1883 and has since become a popular international sport.

It is said that local man Ned Haig created the rugby variation when he was asked to come up with a new event to attract fans to Melrose rugby club.

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He thought it would not be possible to get enough players for a traditional 15-a-side tournament in one afternoon, so reduced the teams to seven.

Batonbearer Jane Sargent carries the Glasgow 2014 Queen's Baton through Melrose. Picture: Getty

It has been played in the Commonwealth Games since Kuala Lumpur 1998, with New Zealand winning the gold medal on each occasion. It will also be played at the Olympics in Brazil in two years’ time.

Today, the baton was carried into Melrose Rugby Football Club as it continues its tour of Scotland. It was taken around the pitch as crowds gathered to wave flags and cheer on the baton-bearers.

A rugby sevens tournament between local schools was held at the club to mark the occasion, and play briefly stopped to allow players to have their picture taken with the baton.

Scottish international sevens player Lewis Young met those taking part in the relay and said he was delighted to see the reception given in the Borders.

“There’s a great atmosphere around the baton and I think it was extra special that it came to Melrose while the young guys are playing a sevens tournament,” he said.

“Seeing the game spread around the world is great and it’s good for the Borders as well because people are interested in where it all started, and we’re proud of it.”

He added: “The sevens game is just going to get bigger and bigger, particularly with it being in the next Olympics, but elite competitions like the Commonwealth Games only add to its profile.”

The visit to Melrose came on the 253th day of the baton’s journey through the 70 nations and territories of the Commonwealth.

As part of its tour of the Borders it was also carried through Duns, Kelso, Jedburgh, Selkirk and Hawick.

School children took part in the relay as well as a host of local people nominated by friends and family.

Stuart Turner was put forward by Commonwealth Games Scotland after working as part of the bid for Glasgow 2014, and he was delighted to carry the baton in his home town of Melrose.

He said: “It doesn’t get any better than running round with the baton in this great setting with people I know and school kids cheering everyone on, and it’s great to see a whole range of different people running with the baton,” he said.

“The rugby club is the heart of the community here and its hugely significant to the history of the game, so to have the baton on the pitch was a special moment.”