Do Scotland Need a 7s Side?

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It is always important to get the facts out of the way first:

Some Scotland 7s players were offered two year contracts in the summer; 7s will be part of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.

All of this has to be set forth before it can be suggested that anything should change. However, some fans are asking with more regularity, “Why do Scotland have a full-time 7s squad and only two pro teams?”

If I were to ring in with my own opinion I would say that a third pro side is a bridge too far for Scotland right now, particularly as two teams are trying to build on their meagre foundations and not only consolidate, but build on their good seasons. Adding another team which needs 35 players at least would undoubtedly dilute these teams. There just aren’t enough players in Scotland who could cope with pro rugby.

This being said, there must be questions asked of where the SRU are investing money.

No sources have yielded a figure for how much the 7s squad costs the SRU, but it is a fact that the IRB pay for all flights and accommodation when the team are away. So if running costs of things like feeding, clothing and strapping players are taken out the only sizeable overhead for the 7s is staffing the team and the backroom.

It is harsh to say a full-time 7s team has been a failure after one year, purely because they have failed to make a Cup quarter final all season. It is also irrelevant to say that the experiment will be axed, because some players are under 7s contract for another year and because the Scottish government will demand decent representation at the Commonwealth games.

However, when these pressures are forgotten it must be discussed whether Scotland would be better placed spending the 7s money elsewhere.

7s is fantastic entertainment and Scotland is the cradle of the game. It was invented in Melrose, so the story goes. Yet, Irish rugby, at club level at least, is very strong and they have no 7s side on the IRB circuit. They divert that money into their provinces or for the needs of the national 15s side.

Should Scotland do the same?

My suggestion would not be to use redistributed money for a third pro-side –that would cost more than the 7s outlay and it would require many more players –but, rather use that cash to invest into coach development and to give young, learning players more attention. It is so often the case that our worst coaches are sent to the kids and then, as they learn, they work with older subjects. Let’s promote better coaches to junior sections and raise the standards of coaching across the country. That would mean more players overall, rather than catching those of a certain age.

Of course it could be argued that such extra funds could be freed up elsewhere. Only a madman would suggest taking money away from age-grade sides, but perhaps the more lucid revellers would pose questions about the Club International side.

What I would say is that many believe the SCI to be the best value side out of HQ, with genuine expectations of winning games, only one away fixture and many costs already being covered by other travelling Scotland sides and sponsors. The 7s have many more fixtures, full-time staff and generally lower expectations.

It is one that tears at you. It is a national side and one you should support. It is a representation of the game we invented. Nevertheless, once the Commonwealth Games are over will there be the need for the team? The game of 7s keeps expanding and despite recently becoming more professional in this country there is a danger of the team being left behind. Could the powers that be follow the Irish model and avoid looking like stragglers? They could still keep the event at Scotstoun, after all, without Scotland competing…

This is one I have no definitive answer for. It is more of a debate starter. I imagine there will be some strong opinions either way.

Dundonian Alan has played rugby all over the world for various teams including Dundee High School, Heriot's and the Scottish Club International. Now writing from London he covers all issues international and unreported.

8 responses to this article

  1. Ray said:

    Sevens is now an Olympic sport, a “legit” form of rugby union, and in some developing rugby countries is held in almost as high a regard as 15s. Scotland needs a 7s team for the same reason that we need a 15s team, the real question is how do we go about improving our fortunes. I’ll start by saying this, I attended the Glasgow City 7s on Saturday and GHA, a Prem 3 outfit, defeated a Samurai side flush with Scotland 7s internationals. So there is clearly potential out there.

    • Niall said:

      yeh, but how many Scottish 7s internationals were in the GHA team?!

    • Ray said:

      Andy Henderson and Hefin O’Hare (not sure if they played Scotland 7s but obviously both are ex-pros). It was far from a two man show though. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that these 2 were not the stand out guys in the team. Howe of Fife were also impressive aside from their first game against GHA. The point I’m basically making though is that what makes a good 15s player doesn’t necessarily make a good 7s player. I’ve just mentioned two Prem 3 sides there who in my opinion who would give the Scotland 7s side a run for their money. In fact, man for man, Samurai were not far away from being a Scotland 7s team. I’d like to see a Scotland 7s team picked from guys who are good 7s players, not fringe and young pro players who have no real affinity with the game.

  2. Phil said:

    Today’s Scotsman has an article about Sir Moir Lockhead setting out his strategy at the AGM next month. Seems that 7s is part of that strategy.

    Also part of that strategy is getting more bums on seats at pro team games, getting more kids playing the game at schools and helping the domestic clubs to succeed.

    Build the player and supporter bases, get pro teams working with the clubs and then think about introducing more pro teams.

  3. James said:

    I think it’s essential to have a 7’s side. We all lament the lack of tries and evasive running in the full game so it would be counterproductive to remove one of the best training stages for attacking rugby. With only 2 pro teams it also gives young/fringe players a chance to pit themselves against the best attacking players in the world, for under half a million a year that’s great value for money!

  4. Kev said:

    I’d like to see the main 7s squad isolated from pro/club rugby from now until the 2014 games. They would play the various circuits and get the skills and conditioning required to WIN at that level. Ideally a seperate sponsor for the 7s for 2 years

  5. Iain said:

    The problem with the 7s side is their selection of players the last few seasons has been an absolute embarrassment and will continue to be so until big changes to the squad are made.

  6. elixier said:

    Agree with Iain
    Replaced one coach with another who talked the same rubbish as the last one
    So much rubbish about preperation analysis ice baths pumped up players regrouping blah blah. never mentioned the fact too many gym monkeys with no skills, poor rugby brains defensively inept and lacking in ideas. cant believe some of the players who were selected