The Scotland Sevens squad will be looking to hit the ground running at the Hong Kong Sevens over the next few days to give themselves some momentum heading into next week’s Commonwealth Games.
With Matt Fagerson, George Horne, Lee Jones, Ruaridh Jackson, Glenn Bryce and Darcy Graham joining the group from the pro game the last ten days have been key to integrating the XV-a-side players with the sevens regulars.
The Hong Kong event – part of the World Series and known as the biggest sevens tournament in the world – starts tomorrow, with the Scots taking on England in the pool stages. They then head to the Gold Coast where the Commonwealth Games rugby will be played on 14 and 15 April.
And one of the core Scotland Sevens players to look out for over these two weekends could be 24-year-old speedster Max McFarland.
Speak to him and you might not think he is Scottish. He has a broad Irish accent and had a spell living in Russia as a youngster, but his mother is a proud Scot and he is loving his first year on the international circuit.
“My mum Anne is a Laidlaw and both sets of grandparents are Scottish,” explained McFarland, who is on a partnership contract with Glasgow Warriors. “She loves it that I am playing for Scotland. She’s been to two of the [World Series] legs already.
“I’ve slotted in quite easily to the sevens group, I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s such a good group of lads and they’ve all been really welcoming so I’ve loved it.
“The main focus for Hong Kong is to see how our team gels. We’ve got the pro boys coming in so we’re really excited to have them and see what they can bring to the group. The main thing is that we need to get the communication across because they’ve been playing 15s the whole time, but we’re pretty optimistic about what can be achieved.
“Growing up I was in the Leinster Academy and the Leinster age-grade system. Then I played a game for Clontarf against the Barbarians and Scott Johnson [Scottish Rugby’s director of rugby] got on to me about coming over and he knew I was Scottish through my agent.
“When I was young my mum worked as an accountant in Russia for about five years so she dragged the family out with her. I was three when we went out and we were living in Moscow.
“And then I was in St Petersburg for a year for my studies [a degree in business and Russian] too. I can understand everything a Russian person says but I’m quite rusty at the moment speaking it. For now all of my focus is on these two weeks, how exciting it is to be able to play in Hong Kong and then go a multi-sport event, it doesn’t get much better.”
Jo Nayacavou is the only player named in the Games squad not to feature in Hong Kong as he has just recently recovered from a groin injury. Edinburgh’s Ally Miller takes Nayacavou’s place.