Gavin Lowe and Jamie Farndale will be key men for Scotland at the Rugby World Cup sevens showpiece event in the US later this week, according to a man who played in the tournament in 2005, 2009 and 2013.
The Scots flew off to San Francisco on Sunday as they prepare to take on either Tonga or Kenya in the last 16 of the straight knock-out competition in the early hours of Saturday our time at the AT & T Park.
And Colin Gregor, who was involved in the last three World Cups in Hong Kong, Dubai and Moscow before retiring – feels that playmaker Lowe and forward Farndale will have a big say if Scotland are to compete deep into the event. Lowe, a product of Ayr, made his Scotland debut back in late 2014 and the 23-year-old has become a well respected member of the squad.
Former Edinburgh Academy pupil Farndale is Mr Consistency, hardly missing a tournament on the World Series circuit since he made his breakthrough at the end of the 2014-15 season. He is now 24.
“Gav Lowe is just a really quality player,” Gregor, now 37 and who scored 1345 points for his country in the abbreviated game, said.
“He has pace that can take him past defenders and his side-step is one that really troubles defences on the sevens field, but the main thing he has is a great rugby brain.
“In that playmaker role where he is likely to be you have to be scanning the field all the time and thinking whether to go it alone or spin the ball wide and Gav seems to be so good at making the right decision out there.
“Over the last couple of years he has been hit by a few injuries which saw him have to leave the extended GB squad ahead of the Olympics back in 2016 and he missed the Commonwealth Games earlier this year so he will be even more determined to make his mark on the big stage.
“The really experienced guys in this squad are the likes of captain Scott Riddell and Jo Nayacavou, but Jamie Farndale has a lot of events under his belt now and, as we saw at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast back in April, he likes to take matches by the scruff of the neck.
“He is a powerful player who is good in contact, but he also has pace to burn and that scares defences. Scotland are likely to be playing Kenya first up and we all know how physical they can be, so Jamie will need to have a big game.”
With prolific try scorer James Fleming having been forced to retire earlier in 2018 due to a number of injuries, and Darcy Graham not being released by Edinburgh for the event, many wonder where Scotland’s tries may come from.
However, Gregor has been impressed with what he has seen from Max McFarland in his first year as a core sevens player, while Sam Pecqueur and Alec Coombes have made timely returns from injury.
A broad Irish accent coupled with a spell living in Russia as a youngster are part of McFarland’s interesting back story, but his mother is a proud Scot and he is loving life with Dalziel’s men.
He turned 25 last week and Gregor said: “Max was one I didn’t know too much about this time last year, but he is a small guy with a lot of pace and he puts defences on the back foot.
“Sevens is so different from XVs and can take a while to get used to, but he has been picked fairly consistently throughout the year and he has grown into things.
“In sevens you have to pick the starting seven and subs that are right for each particular match. Sometimes it pays to have a small, speedy guy out wide like Max while other times a bigger, more physical winger will be the guy for the job like Sam or Alec.
“John Dalziel clearly rates the two of them and sees them as good men to have around the squad because they can also play in the forwards if needed. This is a big chance for them.”
Scotland’s first fixture at 3:03am UK time on Saturday.