Melrose Sevens Hall of Fame: “I think they were going to surprise me with it but I kind of ruined it” – Ross McCann

Scotland and Team GB sevens star was recently a member of Gregor Townsend's Six Nations training squad

Melrose Sevens Hall of Fame inductee Ross McCann during a recent Scotland Six Nations camp training session. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Melrose Sevens Hall of Fame inductee Ross McCann during a recent Scotland Six Nations camp training session. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

ROSS MCCANN turns out to be almost as elusive off the pitch as the speedy winger is on the field of play. We make several dates and only connect at the fourth attempt but he’s worth the wait. McCann is one of those erudite sportsmen who actually enjoys chatting to journalists. Ask him a question and he picks it up and runs with it until someone interrupts, which I have to do from time to time.

He has just been inducted into the Melrose Hall of Fame; no one is more surprised than the man himself. Before the news broke, one of the organisers had called to ask if he was coming to the announcement dinner on the Thursday evening before the Saturday sports?

McCann was hemming and hawing, not relishing the drive from Edinburgh, worrying about his jet lag following a trip to the Hong Kong Sevens with Team GB and lining up his excuses before they lost patience and told him he’d better show his face as he was being honoured!


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“I think they were going to surprise me with it but I kind of ruined the surprise myself,” he confesses.

McCann was schooled at Royal High and played for the Royal High Corstorphine club [a few years before that amalgamation was dissolved] whilst still at school. He moved to Stewart’s Melville where his coach was Bruce Ruthven, the former Melrose stalwart, so when the powers that be suggested that the winger find a Premiership berth, Ruthven made sure that he pitched his tent at the Greenyards.

He was a poster boy for The Offside Line during the 2016-17 season (his first at Melrose) as the first player this website interviewed during our first year of providing comprehensive coverage of the Premiership, and memorably scored four tries in the 2018 Scottish Cup final against Stirling County.

McCann hails from a sporting family, the oldest of four brothers, two are footballers, two went with rugby. Dad is English and mum hails from Ulster but all four were born in Scotland. One brother, Ali, started for Northern Ireland in that 0-1 defeat at Hampden a week or so back and is a regular for Preston North End in England’s Championship. Another brother, Lewis, turns out for Dunfermline while the youngest of the lot, 16-year-old Scott, plays rugby for Boroughmuir and is on Edinburgh’s radar.

“I hate to admit it but he could be better than me,” says Ross of his youngest sibling, who is another winger in the making. “He is certainly going to be a lot bigger than me!”

Ross is a little fella playing in a sport populated by giants. He was in the same age-grade teams as Darcy Graham and I posit the theory that guys like Graham plus the diminutive Springboks pairing of Cheslin Kolbe and Kurt-Lee Arendse have struck a big blow for small players the world over?

“Darcy was in my age group growing up and we used to have ding-dongs against each other,” McCann recalls. “It’s pretty annoying when you are competing against someone and they are actually amazing! You want to be competitive but you can’t when it’s Darcy Graham because he’s outstanding.

“Rugby went through a stage when they wanted massive players,” McCann continues. “Now it’s moving towards athletic and fast paced players. Look at props these days, they are athletes. Honestly if you watch them doing a speed test it is terrifying seeing a 130kg prop sprint as fast as they do!”

McCann’s summary of his friend and rival may offer an insight into the Sevens specialist himself. The self-effacing winger has high praise for almost everyone in the game with the obvious exception of himself. He insists that he has been ‘lucky’ with the various squads he has represented, Melrose, Scotland 7s, GB 7s, but the truth is that McCann fits in anywhere and rubs along with pretty much everyone.

 

 

It seems like karma has repaid him handsomely because good things keep happening to McCann.

If being inducted into the Melrose Hall of Fame was a shock, the winger states that going to the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 was a “dream come true”. He got plenty of game time for Team GB, including a stint off the bench in the 3rd/4th place play-off against Argentina, but was unable to prevent a 17-12 loss to Los Pumas, so he remains one agonising try shy of an Olympic medal.

“Going to the Olympics was mental. I was named in the training squad but thought there was no chance I would go,” he says. “The more I trained the more I thought I might have a chance.

“Being there was a dream come true. I always wanted to go to the Olympics as a kid but you never think it’s going to happen. It’s a pretty incredible thing to have done.”

GB SVNS women have already qualified for Paris but the men are going to need all of McCann’s karma to make the upcoming Olympics. Beaten by Ireland in the final qualifier, the GB team now heads to Monaco on 21st -23rd June where the likes of South Africa, Chile, Canada, Tonga and a host of other highly competitive teams face off for one final repechage spot.

Don’t bet against it because McCann seems to specialise in making the impossible, or at least the highly improbable, happen.

Only a few months ago an injury to his old friend/rival Graham saw the sevens specialist whistled up to Scotland’s Six Nations squad; never mind that the winger had played exactly two competitive 15-a-side matches in the last five years, both for Edinburgh and both this season. Prior to that his last competitive outings in the 15s format was for Melrose versus Watsonains in the cup semi-final back in 2019.

“I got the call from Gregor Townsend and I couldn’t turn it down,” McCann says, and why would you?

“I was thinking this is amazing, this is mental, this is so cool. This is bucket list stuff and then you want more and then you want more and then you want more.”

You don’t know whether to applaud the fact that someone as infectiously enthusiastic as McCann (almost) got his chance to shine at the highest level, or scream into the abyss because Scotland has no so little depth that they are obliged to call upon McCann and his limited 15 man experience.

Sevens players are usually split between those that love the short game and those that are secretly hankering after a shot at the big time in the 15 man version. Which group, I ask, does McCann place himself?

“I just enjoy playing rugby,” he responds. “Wherever that opportunity is I will be open to it, whether that’s 7s or that’s 15s. I like playing rugby. I enjoy training every day. I like being around the players, the people, the coaches. I just enjoy playing rugby. I really enjoy going to work.”

  • The Melrose Sevens festival is this weekend, kicking off with the Hall of Fame Dinner on Thursday night running through to Saturday when 30 teams will compete for either the 1883 Centenary Cup or the Mike Bleasdale Cup.
  • To find out more, click HERE.

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About Iain Morrison 148 Articles
Iain was capped 15 times for Scotland at openside flanker between his debut against Ireland during the 1993 Six Nations and his final match against New Zealand at the 1995 World Cup in South Africa. He was twice a Cambridge ‘Blue’ and played his entire club career with London Scottish (being inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame in 2016). Iain is a lifelong member of Linlithgow Rugby Club. After hanging up his boots, he became rugby correspondent for The Sunday Herald, before moving to The Scotland on Sunday for 16 years, and he has also guest written for various other publications.