Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022: Lee Jones targets gold for Scotland in rugby sevens

It has not been a good week for sevens with the news the Scotland sides are to be subsumed into a merged British team which will compete in the World Series.

Lee Jones will be competing in his fourth Commonwealth Games for Scotland. Photo: © Craig Watson/Team Scotland
Lee Jones will be competing in his fourth Commonwealth Games for Scotland. Photo: © Craig Watson/Team Scotland

The loss of identity for the country that invented the abbreviated game is a sore one to take and there appears little stomach from Murrayfield to fight the changes which are being driven by World Rugby on the grounds that it is Team GB which participates at Olympic level.

Happily, the Commonwealth Games remains a devolved matter and men’s and women’s Scotland teams will head south next week to take part in the sevens which is being held at Coventry Stadium, 23 miles from the Games’ main base in Birmingham.

Rugby made its Commonwealth Games debut for men in Kuala Lumpur in 1998, but Manchester 2002 was the first occasion Scotland entered a team. It wasn’t introduced as a core sport for women until Gold Coast four years ago, and this year will be Scotland’s debut.

Co-captain Helen Nelson is relishing Scotland's Commonwealth Games draw against Australia, Fiji and South Africa. Photo: © Craig Watson/Team Scotland

Given the backdrop, the winning of medals would certainly cock a snook at the powerbrokers and Lee Jones believes the men’s team are capable of delivering.

The former Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors winger will be taking part in his fourth Commonwealth Games, a remarkable achievement for a player who was also capped eight times by Scotland at 15-a-sides.

He made his Commie Games bow in Delhi in 2010, then played in Glasgow in 2014 and Gold Coast in 2018. Now 34, he believes the current squad is capable of outperforming their predecessors.

“It will be a big challenge,” said Jones, who was speaking before the merger announcement. “Our best finish so far has been sixth in a couple of the tournaments - we need to do better than that. The boys are aiming to get a medal.

Selkirk's Lee Jones and head coach Ciaran Beattie will be at this year's Commonwealth Games with Scotland's rugby sevens team (Photo by Craig Williamson/SNS Group/SRU)

“So there’s that challenge, and the fact it’s in Birmingham means you can almost class it as a home Games. I think there will be a lot of family down the road.

“It’s not too far away. It’s not quite Glasgow, but it’s probably as close to home as you can get.”

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Scotland will face South Africa, Tonga and Malaysia in Pool B of the 16-team competition. They will play the latter two teams on Friday and then South Africa and hopefully a quarter-final on Saturday.

Asked what medal he felt Scotland could achieve, Jones was bullish. “You can say gold. Gold is obviously better. The way the pools are set up, it comes down to a couple of games, 14 minutes and that’s a game. We’ve just got to make sure we’re on it.”

There are eight teams in the women’s competition and Scotland are in Pool B with Fiji, Australia, and South Africa. The former two are first up on Friday, followed by South Africa and a potential semi-final on Saturday.

It’s a tough draw but co-captain Helen Nelson is relishing it.

“The Commie Games is the pinnacle on the world stage and hopefully we can go out and perform,” she said.

“We’ve never played Australia before so we’re all really looking forward to that. They won the World Series this year so there is no better team to go up against and test yourselves.”

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