WITH their involvement in next year’s Commonwealth Games now confirmed, Scotland’s national 7s teams are looking forward to a busy nine months leading up to Birmingham 2022.
The women’s side achieved an invite to Birmingham after a strong performance at the Rugby Europe Sevens Championship Series in Moscow earlier this year, placing fourth overall. The men’s side qualified through World Rugby Sevens Series standings pre lockdown.
Ciaran Beattie, head coach of the Men’s team, now plans to unveil his core squad before Christmas, ahead of a return to action in round three of the 2021-22 World Rugby Sevens Series in Spain at the end of January. A Team GB side featuring several Scots will compete in the first two legs of the Series (which will both be played in Dubai on 26th-27th November and the 3rd-4th December) before the separate nations take over for the remaining eight events.
“We’ll hopefully be able to do that [name the squad] in the next month,” said Beattie. “We’ve got people in various places, and the world moves a little slower than it used to, but we’re almost there.
“And I am confident that with the group we have put together we are going to have a really successful World Series culminating in the Commonwealth Games.
“We’ve had good support from Scottish Rugby, so we’re going to be in a good place. We’ve been fortunate enough to have most of our 7s guys based with Edinburgh and Glasgow [during the Covid period], as well as some of them away training and competing [at the Olympics] for Team GB.
“Now we’re getting to the point where we’re excited about being back competing in the World Series as Scotland, and it is going to be great to be able to bring that experience the guys have had with the Team GB into our camp.
Meanwhile, a handful of the pre-lockdown core 7s squad – such as Harvey Elms, Nyle Godsmark, Sam Pecqueur and Gavin Lowe – have kept themselves ticking over by playing Super6 in recent months.
There is also expected to be a few new faces, getting their first taste of the pro rugby environment, involved. “Development is a massive part of what the programme is about, and we need experience there to help these younger guys coming through, so we’ll have that blend,” Beattie confirmed.
Asked to set a target for the Games, Beattie replied: “Our best placed finish is sixth, so I think we’ve got to at least match that, if not climb above it, but there is a lot of water to go under the bridge, so that is something we’ll articulate further down the line.”
This will be the first time the Women’s team has competed at the Commonwealth Games, and another major step forward for the side – who are not on the World 7s circuit – in terms of getting more players exposure to top level rugby.
“The big thing is that there is a core group of players who have been together for the last four years across both 15s and 7s, and they’ve had an opportunity to play a lot of international rugby and get that experience,” said head coach Scott Forrest.
“That, combined with a really good group of young players such as Shona Campbell, Meryl Smith and Emma Orr, and we are starting to see the work which has been put into developing players bear fruit.”
The concern is that Scotland Women could become victims of their own recent success. The 15s team are currently preparing for a final World Cup repechage tournament in January, and if they progress to the main event for the first time since 2010 then that will mean heading to New Zealand just two months after the Commonwealth Games. There has tended to be much more crossover between Scotland’s senior 15s and senior 7s teams in the women’s game over the years, so it looks likely that some juggling of human resources will be necessary.
“I’ll be honest with you, right now we don’t know how that would work,” conceded Forrest. “From a 15s perspective, we still need to go to the repechage in January, and everyone is expecting Scotland to do well there and qualify for the World Cup.
“And if we do then these are the types of problem you want to have. I’ve been involved since 2012 and we’ve never really had the problem of qualifying for more than one major games, so getting to go to a Commonwealth Games and a World Cup next year would be brilliant – and I’m pretty confident that we would be able to come up with a programme which manages to combine both 15s and 7s for us to compete well in both.”