Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Scotland team to miss CWG Rugby 7s..!!

Scotland may claim to be the home of seven-a-side rugby, but it looks increasingly likely that the nation which gave birth to the abbreviated game more than 125 years ago may not have presence at the Commonwealth Games sevens competition in Delhi later this year.

That was the unavoidable conclusion of the warning issued by Michael Cavanagh, chairman of Commonwealth Games Scotland, who made it clear that Scotland’s performances on this season’s IRB Sevens World Series have not been up to scratch.

In the seven IRB tournaments held to date, the Scotland team has not once reached the quarter-final stage, the criterion they would have to meet to be put forward for the Delhi event.

Cavanagh said: “In order to have their selection confirmed, and in line with all of the other 16 sports, Scotland Rugby sevens need to demonstrate the potential to finish in the top eight at the Games and confirm the availability of the strongest possible combination of players.

"We have been in ongoing discussions with the SRU and will review the situation with them following this weekend’s final leg of the IRB Sevens.”

The final event is the Emirates Airlines Edinburgh sevens, which takes place at Murrayfield this weekend. The Scots have traditionally done well on home soil – they reached the semi-final stage last year – and coach Stephen Gemmell is confident of strong performance from a side boosted by the arrival of such international stars as Ally Hogg and Ben Cairns.

However, Cavanagh’s insistence on assurances about the strength of the squad which will be available in October is likely to be a greater stumbling block than performances over the past few months.

Even if Scotland do well in their own tournament, it is unlikely that the SRU would be able to guarantee the release of players of the calibre of Hogg and Cairns in October, when the Commonwealth Games will clash with the early rounds of next season’s Heineken Cup.

“We’ve always been clear about the criteria for taking part in the Games and we’re comfortable with that situation,” said SRU communications director Dominic McKay. “We’ll make sure we have the strongest possible squad to compete at the Games.”

However, there appears to be a growing acceptance within Scottish rugby circles that the country simply does not have enough quality players to be competitive on a number of fronts. Graham Lowe, the SRU’s performance director, is currently conducting a review of how the top players are utilized, and it would be no great surprise if participation in the IRB series dropped off the agenda.

As embarrassing as that might be in the country where Melrose butcher first conceived of sevens as a money-spinning wheeze for his local club in 1883, it is probably a more realistic approach than the current situation where resources are spread painfully thin.

There are also suggestions that a Scotland team will not have to meet such stringent performance measures to be entered in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014.

Meanwhile, Scotland coach Andy Robinson has defended the decision not to play three-Test series in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand over the next few years. Speaking after the details of Scotland’s forthcoming international programme had been revealed, Robinson suggested that matches against lower-ranked nations would do more for player development.

“I do not believe it would be beneficial for us to play a series of three Tests against the individual SANZAR countries at the end of our season,” said Robinson. “What I believe works for us, from a performance perspective, is a mix between SANZAR and Tier 2 unions as that gives us the opportunity to develop players, which is part and parcel of touring.”

Scott MacLeod, the Edinburgh lock, has been added to the Scotland squad for next month’s two Tests against Argentina. MacLeod, 31, has been called up as Nathan Hines has ruled himself out due to a family bereavement. Scott Newlands, also of Edinburgh, will take MacLeod’s place in the Scotland A squad for the IRB Nations Cup in Romania.


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