An amalgamation of the sevens squad between Scotland, Wales and England would have a detrimental effect on the women’s rugby in Scotland.
With women’s rugby being one of the fastest growing sports in the world, this change would feel like a step backwards. Why take away an opportunity to expand the sport? My fear is that the amalgamation will be dominated by the English players because they are playing at a higher level consistently.
For women in Scotland currently, there are not many opportunities to play at a high level and this would be taking one of those opportunities away.
Currently Scotland Women are 14th in the world rankings, which is based on 15s and 7s combined. Taking the sevens ranking on its own, Scotland are 25th; countries like Netherlands, Russia, Kazakhstan and Tunisia are above us.
In Scotland, we don’t use sevens to it’s full advantage or take it seriously enough. It’s a shame considering we invented the shortened version of the game. Sevens is a game that should be used from the start to get players interested and used to develop the basic skills of rugby. First of all, the stress of getting enough numbers for a full XV + subs is taken away – which is a big issue in the women’s game here in Scotland.
The game time is not as long so there is not as much pressure on newer players either to last 80 minutes. More focus can be made on handling skills and evasion skills, as well as help with the understanding basic concepts of the game.
Obviously sevens can be, and should be, seen as its own sport and developed in such a way but it should also be used to evolve players. For example, Hamish Watson, Lee Jones, Peter Horne and Darcy Graham have all had stints playing sevens for Scotland and have made a successful transition to the national squad using skills that they perfected using sevens. The only team that seems to compete consistently is the Men’s sevens squad and why is that?
We seem to enter sevens competitions on a whim and expect the women to compete, but the international women’s game is not a fair playing field. Not many sports expect a team with the majority of amateur players to compete successfully with a team full of professionals and this is what is happening time and time again in the women’s game.
Yes, we have had players picked to represent Team GB in the Olympics that was due to take place this year. Six Scottish players, four of whom are professional compared to the 15 English players that were selected. It was only last year that the Scotland Women’s U18s team played in their first ever tournament at Rugby Europe sevens – where they finished 6th. Why has it taken so long for Scotland to get a team to these tournaments?
For women, the jump from amateur to top level rugby is huge. Even now most of the international squad are amateurs playing in the women’s premiership league which has a vast range of levels of players.
You can have an international player up against a player relatively new to the game. Is that developing the players fairly? Is it worth thinking of getting Edinburgh and Glasgow on board to set up women’s teams under their banner to play an equivalent of Pro14?
At the present moment, for women to experience any kind of international level of rugby they either get a chance with Scotland U18s and even then it has just been a recent move to play in some sevens tournaments, they don’t compete in any yearly international competition.
The next chance is the Scotland national squad – there is nothing in between. There is no U20 Six Nations like there is for the men. There are no academy competitions like the men and to be honest very few women are even involved in the academy structure. Out of approximately 4000 women and girls registered to play, only about 14 are professional players.
Rugby at a high level is not as easily accessible for women as it is for men and taking away another avenue of getting involved in the sport will make a huge dent in the women’s game here.
We need to expand the sport and we can only do this if there are as many different teams for players to play in providing long term goals for women who take their rugby seriously.