Scotland lose place in HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series

Move is mandated by World Rugby to align series with Olympic Games qualification

Scotland Sevens star Ross McCann during a training match against New Zealand ahead of the team's Commonwealth Games campaign later this month. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Scotland Sevens star Ross McCann during a training match against New Zealand ahead of the team's Commonwealth Games campaign later this month. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

SCOTTISH RUGBY has stated that it plans to continue running Scotland 7s programmes despite today’s announcement that Scotland, England and Wales are to join forces as Team GB ahead of the 2023 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.

This decision to merge the three countries was mandated by World Rugby in order to align the World Series with Olympic qualification requirements. Great Britain previously participated in the series in 2021 in preparation for that year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.

England, Scotland and Wales will compete as individual nations in the Commonwealth Games, which take place at Coventry Stadium on 29th-31st July, and Rugby World Cup Sevens in Cape Town on 9th-11th September, before reverting to GB for the 2023 World Rugby Sevens Series when the men’s competition kicks off in Hong Kong on 4th-6th November 2022, before combined men’s and women’s rounds in Dubai on 2nd-3rd December and Cape Town on 9th-11th December.


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While the respective unions and World Rugby are in discussions with regard to further playing opportunities for the England, Scotland and Wales teams, it is hard to discern any real strategic value in this from a player development perspective. The World Series is the pinnacle of international sevens in any regular season so, as it stands, any other playing opportunities are going to be intermittent and of a questionable level.

While the Scotland Women’s team doesn’t currently compete as a core nation in the World Series, that was surely always the goal, and without any real prospect of graduating beyond the Rugby Europe Women’s Sevens Championship, you have to ask: what is the point?

“Once rugby sevens became an Olympic sport there was increasingly a requirement from World Rugby that Team GB, as the recognised Olympic entity, should also become part of the sevens landscape to align Olympic qualification through the HSBC World Sevens Series,” said Jim Mallinder, Scottish Rugby’s Director of High Performance.

“We want our players competing at the highest possible level moving forward and I fully expect Scotland to have good representation in the Team GB squads, both for men and women.

“Sevens will continue to play a role in our development pathway and we want to maintain the pipeline of quality players capable of representing both Scotland and Team GB in the future.

“We will continue discussions with World Rugby as to what those future playing opportunities will look like.”

The value of Sevens in the development ‘pipeline’ in Scotland has always been a source of conjecture. With only two pro men’s teams and no pro women’s rugby below international level, there is limited opportunities in Scotland for emerging players to develop in a full-time environment, so the sevens programmes have been a safety net/back-up option which has helped several players over the years.

Kyle Rowe is the most recent full-cap to have played on the circuit, which kept him in the professional environment when full-time contracts at Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors were not forthcoming (although it was his performances for London Irish last season which catapulted him into the Scotland set-up). Mark Bennett, Darcy Graham, George Horne and Damien Hoyland are among the other current Scotland fifteens squad member to have benefited from a stint playing the abbreviated game.

However, the sport at international level is increasingly populated by specialists who have no great desire to return to the fifteens game, and that can be tricky to justify financially when the men’s international fifteen-aside game is the goose that lays the golden egg, no matter how small the costs involved in sevens are.

There is also a historical and emotional perspective to this. Given that Melrose is the birth place of sevens rugby, it will grate with a lot of rugby fans in this country if Scotland loses its presence on the international stage.

Scott Johnson, previous Director of Performance at Murrayfield, provoked a furious backlash when he attempted to disband Scotland’s Sevens programme back in 2015 on financial grounds and that scheme was eventually abandoned. This time it is different, with Mallinder on record supporting Scotland’s involvement in the World Series, while today’s various press releases make it very clear that the change has been “mandated” by World Rugby.

Interestingly, World Rugby’s Sevens Strategy Group is chaired by current Scottish Rugby Chairman John Jeffrey according to the most recent update on the organisation’s website dated 26th August 2020.

 

Four Scots made the 12 strong men’s sevens squad for the 2020 Olympics and a similar representation in the GB squad when it launches later this year is as good as we can really hope for. The professional future of the remainder of Scotland’s core squad members (there is 12 in total) will depend on whether a credible schedule can be created which justifies the costs involved.

The situation appears to be more fluid for the women’s players as they are not on full-time dedicated sevens contracts, but any reduction in the number of opportunities for Scotland’s top women players to grow on the international stage has got to be a concern at a time when all the stops are apparently being pulled out to develop and promote this branch of the game.

“We are acutely aware of Scotland’s heritage and passion for sevens rugby. As such we remain fully committed to a Scotland 7s programme to develop our players and coaches,” added Mallinder.“The move to a GB Sevens team on the World Series will give Scottish players, both men and women, a unique opportunity to represent and compete on the largest global stage through the World Series and Olympic Games.

“It is an exciting development and one we intend to play a full part in.”

The timing of this announcement is far from ideal given that it is bound to have an unsettling effect for both teams just as they apply the finishing touches to their Commonwealth Games preparation ahead of that competition kicking-off next Friday.


Pro teams return for pre-season training

 

About David Barnes 2991 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

43 Comments

  1. Get rid of the players who have been bang average at world series levels for years and use the euro tour or whatever to help hone the skills of the u20 back row and backs.

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  2. I wonder what Ned Haig would have made of this situation, World Cup sevens without Scotland. Melrose no more??

  3. I wonder how many regularly watched the HSBC 7s. It was available free and live on YouTube, but it would be very easy to be unaware of that. Even the Melrose 7s doesn’t enjoy the prominence it once did on the BBC.
    Though there are obviously specialists more suited to 7s, I’ve long thought it is a valuable development tool for some younger players who might otherwise struggle for game time at the highest level. Loose forwards and backs in particular would hone distribution, defence and general strategic thinking, but it doesn’t look like 7s has much of a future, with live audiences embarassingly small. I’m surprised it’s included in the Olympics, as not many nations have teams and even those who do may not enjoy much public following.

    • Not long I suspect Colin.

      I also suspect that there are plenty involved with the SRU, and even within the Scottish support, who would quite happily see Scotland dissolved into a ‘Team GB’.

      This could well end up as a slippery slope. Does anybody actually trust the SRU to do the best thing for Scottish Rugby?

      If you do, I have some magic beans I’d like to sell you.

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  4. If we take a dispassionate step back here, what is the real impact of this. If you take the Olympics and Commonwealth Games away, the 7’s bubble has burst. When you see it on TV, attendances are poor which, ironically, is one of the reasons we lost the Murrayfield leg. NZ and SA are either transitioning towards new teams or have reduced their interest levels too. All in all, 7’s is more skillful but interest is waning

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  5. An utterly ridiculous decision that shows how easily the Scottish identity can be removed from sport.

    No surprise thought that the forelock tuggers at the SRU have gone along with this.

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  6. Perhaps this extra funding now available… Along with Dodson’s Big Fat Bonus can fund a third pro team or better yet… THE GRASSROOTS LEVEL!

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  7. The worst of ideas, driven by the worst of reasons. This is the end of any 7’s identity we may have had.

    Get yourselves a 7’s jersey as they will be a rare commodity…

  8. So some budget freed up, is this what is going to be paying for the investment in the Women game, or will it filter down to Super 6 (guessing grassroots will see none of it).

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  9. Does this explain why Murrayfield have not announced a new coach for Glasgow yet?

    Employee already on the books who will be needing a new gig – and with experience of Super 6, Ciaran will be able to help manage the transition from part-time pro to full-time.

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  10. I’m curious why SRU/WRU/RU have opted to eliminate their own national 7’s teams on the biggest stage, in favour of Olympic qualification which doesn’t really represent any of them very well? If it was mandated for Olympic qualification – well what’s the attraction of Olympic qualification vs an ongoing representation at the highest level? surely they could have declined and just not gone for Olympic qualification? From a purely self-interested point of view (and leaving aside my own disappointment), I think I’m missing the actual leverage that has caused the unions to do this.

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    • the “leverage” was all WR’s. They part fund national 7s teams. They decided to merge the teams into team GB, the rest is them and those unions trying to put on some sort of positive spin.
      RFU will be bug winners, getting more funding as they will no doubt supply most players and keep a WR 7s leg at Twickenham

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  11. Rather than be pushed around, the three unions should probably have told World Rugby to get stuffed and withdrawn their teams from the World Series and Olympics.

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  12. Get us full Independence, then we would have a Scotland team playing in the World Rugby Sevens series and in the Olympics.

    It’s that simple.

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    • Quite right Matt.

      Sadly though, you get 18 thumbs down from those who are happy to see a Scottish identity diluted.

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      • No, this isn’t a political forum.
        However, Scotland’s International identity can only really be seen on a sporting level. We play as Scotland, always have, and not as ‘Team UK’.

        If you find that political, I’m sorry for you.

        The SFA refused to become part of Team GB because they correctly saw the risk of scotland losing its place in international sport.

        Sadly, the SRU doesn’t have the balls to do the same.

  13. If we want to improve on the elite 15 international stage we need a 3rd pro team. The money saved here may help facilitate that aspiration.

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  14. “As such we remain fully committed to a Scotland 7s programme to develop our players and coaches”
    How does getting rid of our national 7s team align with the above statement from the SRU press release?

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  15. The SRU have been itching to bin 7s for years. World Rugby is not an independent entity. It takes its lead from the British isles unions so this is simply something those unions will have asked for behind the scenes to try and avoid the political embarrassment of 2015.

    The SRU have done a great job snuffing out the dreams of Scottish kids wanting to play the sport by selecting swathes of players developed in the jurisdictions of other unions so it should come as no surprise to see a similarly anti-Scottish attitude to 7s.

    Here is hoping we get someone at the head of the SRU sometime in the future who actually embraces the revolutionary concept of fdocussing all energies into getting rugby balls into as many Scottish kids hands as possible, identifying the best prospects regardless of background and providing them with a pathway to represent their nation at the top flight of 7s and 15s.

    I’ve been waiting 30+ years but optimism costs nothing!

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  16. I’m heading to Cape Town for the Rugby 7s Word Cup in September. How will Scotland & Wales (previous R7WC Winners) be able qualify for future R7s World Cup ? Ridiculous to suggest its an Olympic opportunity for our players. No greater opportunity than what they already have, and what do they have to compete for in the non-olympic years. If Scotland & Wales don’t play against the top 7s teams in the world how do we remain competitive to enter future Rugby 7s World Cups, or does that also become team GB ?

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  17. I would be interested to know just what position Mr. Jeffrey took with regard to his prior knowledge of this announcement and what efforts he made to resist the organisation of one sporting body [World Rugby] being forced to change at the behest of another all encompassing sporting body the International Olympic Committee, who runs World Rugby, for want of a better way of asking, is it us or them?
    Or is it as I have suspected for a time a cosy little clique of administrators and television companies and media and PR suits carving up the goodies at the Bar of the Shelbourne Hotel intent on not loosing any Jollies and nest feathering as priorities rather than the benefit of the Rugby Football game.
    It isn’t clear from the article if there had been any discussions between RFU and WRU and the SRU or whether this was a fait accompli from WR, but I think we should be told. Other than the Mallinder statement who else had a hand in this, or who stood to the side? Where was the support for Scottish Rugby?
    In the only printable words I can offer, I’m pretty hacked off, just another nail in the coffin of player development and another diminution of the game I enjoyed as a player for 35 years and supporter since.

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    • Even more hacked off having read a report of the Clubs World Cup of 16 Clubs from North and South Hemispheres, can’t see our two clubs getting involved, perhaps we should just realise that Rugby administrators are being led by the nose of the Commercial Suits and the sooner it all goes down the Swanee the sooner we might get our game back.

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      • Indeed. However to get our game back all you need to do is walk away from the artificially created regional teams and the artificially created franchises and go and watch traditional club rugby.

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    • From another comment elsewhere….

      WELL, WE’VE KNOWN ALL ABOUT YOUR MULTIPLE HOBNOBBING CONFLICTS OF INTERESTS & LOVE OF THE LIMELIGHT AROUND RUGBY’S 5-STAR GRAVY TRAINS, MR CHAIRMAN (SCOTTISH RUGBY, 6 NATIONS, WORLD RUGBY, CVC CAPITAL PARTNERS, BARBARIAN FC, B&I LIONS, etc.)
      WHOSE INTERESTS TO PURSUE AS NUMBER 1 PRIORITY?
      DID YOU BOTHER TO FIGHT THE CORNER OF SCOTLAND SEVENS?
      WHERE WILL SCOTLAND STAND IN THE NEW WORLD CLUB CHAMPIONSHIP, OR BENEFIT FROM THAT?
      WERE THE DISTRACTIONS IN BALLSBRIDGE AND AROUND ST STEPHEN’S SQUARE IN DUBLIN TOO MUCH TO RESIST?
      WTF’S IT ALL ABOUT, MR JEFFREY? WHO BENEFITS MOST?

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  18. mandated by World Rugby, who will save a few quid. We lose out significantly. Thanks Mr Jeffrey, still making a poor job of representing Scotland’s interests.

    And allowing a foot in the door for other teams to be combined by WR – which would solve the how-to-expand-the-6N=problem; and how to resolve the annual World Championship problem, by having 2 fewer teams
    Independence is well overdue. At least we would be able to make out own decisions about whether to keep the 7s team or not

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  19. This will save us money which could go into
    raising the playing standards in club rugby and
    maybe even into a third Pro side

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    • genuinely curious as to how this could raise playing standards in club rugby.

      Anyway a 7s contract is very low pay, and it seems we are going to keep a 7s for elsewhere, so any savings minimal.

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  20. This is a very disappointing decision and there is a concern that there will be fewer opportunities for Scottish players in sevens in future. Perhaps involvement in an improved Rugby Europe circuit for Scottish, English and Welsh teams would be an idea. This could include hosting events in Scotland and Wales, if the London Sevens continue on the world circuit.

  21. Interesting to see how the 3 unions collectively create the opportunities for all players to play themselves into an Olympics. While pursuing the continuity this undoubtedly seeks for a squad to go one better at Olympics. 15s players get a full season before Lions selection (15s equivalent to Olympics lets say) including AI and 6N yet this seems like a narrowing of playing opportunities for 7s player pool of 3 nations. Jake Henry played himself quickly into CW games team. Will a Gb team be open to such players. Goes back to continuity at start.

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