SCOTLAND 7s new boys Kyle Rowe and Scott Bickerstaff both have what it takes to “make a real impact” on the HSBC World Series circuit this season, according to head coach Ciaran Beattie.
When Beattie made public his core squad of 14 names on Wednesday for the 2019-20 campaign which begins in Dubai next month, the selection of teenager Femi Sofolarin, who played for England Sevens as recently as June and has made a dramatic u-turn of allegiance, grabbed the immediate headlines. However, those who have followed the club game in Scotland closely in recent years will have instantly registered the names of Rowe and Bickerstaff among the group.
Along with Sofolarin and former Edinburgh Rugby man Tom Brown, the duo are the other newcomers brought into the core squad.
Last year at this time not many people in Scotland had heard of Kyle Steyn, but he started out with the Sevens squad and has gone onto good things with Glasgow Warriors and the full national training squad in the XV-a-side game. Now another Kyle – Rowe – is looking to follow in his footsteps if he can keep up the good work which earned him eight Scotland Under-20s caps in 2017-18, helped Ayr win the double last year and has had Glasgow Warriors coaching team praising him when he has trained with the pro team.
At the end of last season his then head coach at Ayr, Pete Murchie, said “he could go the whole way”. Beattie is also a fan of the former Falkirk and Glasgow Hawks winger, and is keen to see what he can do in the abbreviated game.
“Kyle has real talent and will bring a different element to the group, he is a 21-year-old guy with bundles of energy and he has been bouncing off the walls at training he is that determined and excited about this opportunity,” the coach stated.
“He has plenty to learn about sevens, but it is great having him around.”
Robbie Fergusson, one of Rowe’s new team-mates who co-captained the squad last year as Scotland finished 10th on the World Series circuit, added: “Kyle has been really impressive in training over the last three weeks.
“I knew he was a good defender and that he was quick having watched him play in the Premiership over the last couple of years, but some of his aerial abilities are also really good, for example his hang time on jumps is unbelievable, so he will be a real asset to us at restarts.
“He played in London and Paris last year and I think he is ready to kick on from that.”
Bickerstaff is a bit older than Rowe, being in his late 20s, but he has been a prolific try scorer from the wing for Troon-based Marr over the last few years, scoring 151 tries from 165 appearances before this season began.
He has played in some high level sevens tournaments around the world with invitational sides like the PROJECX Waterboys and Tiger Rugby, while last year he often trained with the Scotland Sevens group.
“Scott is very fit, very fast and has a good rugby brain,” said Beattie. “He has been part of the wider training squad in previous years and knocking on the door. I am excited to see how he integrates into the squad.”
Fergusson added: “He is a physical winger and his scoring record with Marr speaks for itself. He is definitely ready to make the next step up and I think he has everything in his locker to be a cracking sevens player.”
Meanwhile, Brown, who earned one Scotland full cap in 2012 against Australia, made two World Series appearances at the end of 2018-19 after his Edinburgh contract ended. The 29-year-old is likely to play in the forwards in the abbreviated game.
“Tommy is bouncing around at training like he is a 21-year-old and he has a real spring in his step,” said Beattie. “He is loving learning about lifting in the lineout, jumping in the lineout and just generally being part of the sevens programme.
“Having his experience around – having lost players like Scott Riddell, Glenn Bryce and Jo Nayacavou – is great because he brings a calmness to things and is really great around the group.”
The head coach added: “Femi has played a lot of sevens and it was a no brainer to get him in really. He has obviously played Scotland Under-18s before so we have known about him and he has been in and around the [Scottish Rugby] system for a long time.
“He is now at Newcastle University and he is a great bloke. There was no persuasion needed, there was just a discussion with him, and honest and frank dialogue with [England Sevens and GB Sevens head coach] Simon Amor. It makes sense and with him being at Newcastle now we believe we can help facilitate his development.
Sofolarin was not ‘captured’ by England when he represented them on the HSBC World 7s Series circuit last season because he is not yet 20.
“I think he will have to make a decision around Sydney time [1-2 February, 2020] and after that he would be tied to us,” explained Beattie.
“He has still got to prove himself, he is going to come to the warm-up tournament in Spain at the weekend, but he has trained really well and he has real pace and is an exciting player. I think all four new faces can make a real impact.”
Scotland Sevens core squad for the 2019-20 HSBC World Sevens Series (previous Scotland appearances on the circuit in brackets) –
Tom Brown (2)
Alec Coombes (10)
Harvey Elms (15)
Nyle Godsmark (27)
Jamie Farndale (41)
Robbie Fergusson (19)
Gavin Lowe (34)
Ross McCann (11)
Max McFarland (20)
Ally Miller (14)
Sam Pecqueur (10)
Kyle Rowe (2)
HSBC World Sevens Series 2019-20 schedule –
5-7 December, 2019: The Sevens, Dubai, UAE
13-15 December, 2019: Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town, South Africa
25-26 January, 2020: FMG Stadium, Hamilton, New Zealand
1-2 February, 2020: Bankwest Stadium, Sydney, Australia
29 February-1 March, 2020: Dignity Health Sports Park, Los Angeles, USA
7-8 March, 2020: BC Place Stadium, Vancouver, Canada
3-5 April, 2020: Hong Kong Stadium, Hong Kong
11-12 April, 2020: National Stadium, Singapore
23-24 May, 2020: Twickenham Stadium, London, England
30-31 May, 2020: Stade Jean-Bouin, Paris, France