Commonwealth Games: Rugby 7s team relishing crowds

Scotland captain Colin Gregor (2nd right) at the launch of the Games' ticketing guide. Picture: SNS
Scotland captain Colin Gregor (2nd right) at the launch of the Games' ticketing guide. Picture: SNS
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SCOTLAND Rugby Sevens skipper Colin Gregor insists his team are unconcerned by any extra pressure to perform in front of a huge home crowd when Glasgow hosts next year’s Commonwealth Games.

The Dark Blues captain is expecting to receive boisterous support when the shortened format of the oval-ball game is staged at Rangers’ 51,000-capacity Ibrox Stadium during next summer’s games.

But Glasgow Warriors stand-off Gregor does not believe the weight of expectation placed on his men by a hopeful Scottish support will be too much to bear.

He said: “It will be great getting to play at such a big venue like Ibrox. I’m sure the Scottish public will get behind us and there will be a huge turnout. The noise that they make and support that they give will lead to some improved performances.

“Home support is always massive so it’s fantastic to be involved in such a big event and in my home city as well. It’s great for Sevens and I’m sure the boys will respond to it and put in a really strong performance.

“You can look at the home support as bringing extra pressure if you want but we just look at it as an added excitement and added incentive to go out and do as well as we can.”

Scottish rugby in general is enjoying something of resurgence at present.

Scott Johnson’s 15-a-side team bounced back from a wooden-spoon disaster at last year’s RBS 6 Nations to claim a respectable third-place finish in this year’s contest, while Gregor’s Warriors side enjoyed a successful season that saw them march to the RaboDirect Pro12 play-off semi-finals.

Head coach Stephen Gemmell’s sevens side, meanwhile, finished 13th in the IRB World Sevens Series to retain their core status for next year and Gregor is hopeful that with more hard work, the squad can cap off that progress by winning a medal at Glasgow 2014.

“We’re building,” said the 32-year-old. “There’s only a year to go so the small steps that we have been making, we need to step them up and make them a bit bigger so that we are in a really strong position.

“The fact that there is only a year to go has brought it home how soon it will be upon us. There is a real buzz starting to build around Glasgow.

“The Games are the key focus for us in the Sevens team. We are competing in the World Series between now and then. We have got nine tournaments to participate in and we need to do well in them as a team and individually because we will be playing against the teams that we will be playing in the Commonwealths.

“We want to put down a marker and it also gives us a chance to improve our performances so we are absolutely flying by this time next year.

“For us to win a medal, it is going to take a massive amount of effort. We’ve got the most important year of our lives coming up and we have to make sacrifices off the pitch. But we have to realise that when we are on the pitch, whether it be training or in competition, that we are doing all we can to make sure that medal becomes a realistic possibility.

“Just because I’m captain, I’ve got no certainty that I’ll be there. It’s just as important for me as it is for the rest of our team that we perform individually to a high level and more importantly as a team, so that we are competitive with the top couple of teams in the world and have a chance of medalling.”

The Games are the latest opportunity to put rugby sevens in the spotlight ahead of its Olympic debut in Brazil in 2016.

“Across the world, it’s becoming bigger and bigger and being in the Olympics is helping that,” said Gregor. “The Commonwealth Games is a great chance to show Glasgow and Scotland what Sevens is all about and how that it is slightly different from the 15-a-side game. It’s really exciting and there is a party, carnival atmosphere around the couple of days of competition. There’s lots of try scoring and entertainment on the whole.”