When you talk to cricket fans they will normally say the same thing: “I love tweed…”However, when you ask them about the smash-mouth, less drawn-out affair of 20/20 cricket they acknowledge the excitement but regard it as the warm-up.
In Scotland 7s rugby is considered in much the same way.
Sure it’s exciting, sure it’s fast, sure it give’s players less that 20 stone and shorter that 5ft 10 a chance to run around, but it is seen as frivolous and somewhere else to lose expenditure (Morning, the World’s Biggest Rugby *Fan*, Mr. McKie!). This is why, with our limited pool of players, you will only ever see full-time pros playing in the IRB World 7s Series final legs in London and Edinburgh. ‘Cos it’s at home… and we don’t want to be embarrassed… at home… in front of the press… who will be eye witnesses. Yup, we love papering over the cracks.
The problem, of course, is that there aren’t the resources or prestige when considering the 7s. “Scotland aren’t going to ever miss out on appearing at the Commonwealth Games, and we cannot compete as Scotland in the Olympics so who cares?!” Well it must be pretty irritating for the junior pros and club players who bust a gut all season for the 7s squads only to be turfed out for the full pros in the last 2 tournaments (major world event) to ‘save face.’
This is not only pretty unfair but it is also impractical. If the Murrayfield 7s were tomorrow some of the club players in fine form (Harkness doesn’t look the part but has been one of Scotland’s finest 7s players for years, and James Fleming is a try-machine who will be given an opportunity with Glasgow if they have any nous) would be shunted. Yet bringing in loose-end, fringe pros like Webster and Hefin O’Hare is not going to make Scotland a better team.
More importantly than this, though, Scotland will be missing out on nurturing talent. If talented youngster from the club game, like Fleming or Dougie Fife, are taken out for token pros then we may miss out on better players in the future. Without 7s we would not have Jim Thompson, Roddy Grant or Richie Vernon. It is great for giving players an intense international experience before moving onto intense 15s (not the other way around!).
I have the sneaking suspicion Graham Shiel is picking this (talented, if naive) team because it is all the SRU can afford to sacrifice. There are no more centralised 7s contracts and the pro teams don’t have the strength in depth. Great. Use it as a development exercise and see it through all season…like the French and the Welsh. If they bring in the cavalry come the Series end, we’ll know Shiel is towing the party line just like his predecessor.
We will never be world champions, but in a growing sport we should let the squad grow, and grow into a squad for the next four seasons. You may be pleasantly surprised with what we unearth, too!
Keep up with Scotland’s Progress in George Here…