Melrose stand-off Andrew Skeen has joined the Dubai Sevens Bowl winning Scotland team for the inaugural Nelson Mandela Bay South Africa Sevens, the third leg of the HSC Sevens World Series.
With experience of 10 tournaments to date, Skeen featured in each of last season’s eight tournaments and brings a composed on-field approach and famed fitness levels to a side that seeks to build on last weekend’s success.
The Longridge Towers teacher is a sportscotland institute supported athlete and has been part of the extended Scotland 7s group since Scottish Rugby took the decision to develop a full-time squad.
Skeen said: “It’ll be good to turn out with the boys. I’ve trained regularly with the squad this season and, when they left of the Gold Coast two weeks ago I went to work, but my employers have been fantastic in affording me this opportunity and I think it speaks volumes of the improved approach to sevens and the extended squad.
“I’m obviously joining as a fresh player but equally, while all the players in the series will be tired from the two previous tournaments, I haven’t recently been exposed to the pace of the game.
“The challenge for me is to make the difference count and fight my way into the squad.”
While Kerr Gossman and Mark Cairns joined the squad in place of Sean Kennedy and Struan Dewar ahead of the Gold Coast and Dubai legs, there is no such exchange for Skeen.
Instead, head coach Graham Shiel is taking advantage of an IRB-sanctioned opportunity to bolster competitive squads ahead of the unprecedented third-straight tournament, making Skeen a thirteenth player available to the 12-man match-day squad.
His selection points to a need to cover the midfield which, following Kennedy’s departure has put extra demand on captain Colin Gregor, Peter Horne and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne in the previous legs.
Head coach Graham Shiel said: “Scottish Rugby has increased the focus on sevens rugby this season and the opportunity to call on the experience and form of a player like Andrew [Skeen] speaks volumes of the commitment.
“His physical conditioning, readiness to perform and our relationship with his employer to grant his release are all strong signs of a successful programme in action.”
Scotland will face Dubai Cup runners-up, France, reigning Series and South Africa Sevens champions New Zealand, and African qualifiers Morocco in Pool B.
Scotland 7s squad: Adam Ashe, Mark Cairns*, James Eddie, Michael Fedo, James Fleming, Colin Gregor, Kerr Gossman, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Peter Horne, Ross Miller*, Scott Riddell*, Andrew Skeen*, Andrew Turnbull
*sportscotland institute supported players