Rugby 7s Takes Centre Stage For Sports Focus

February 24, 2020

As part of our ‘Celebrating Our Past, Building Our Future’ theme, each month, Team Scotland is putting one or two sports in the Sport Focus spotlight, which will feature all 25 sports in which Scotland has competed at the Commonwealth Games.

Look out for all things Rugby Sevens on Team Scotland’s website and social channels this month and join us as we delve into the archives to uncover tales of past success and look ahead to the rising stars of Scottish sport.

Rugby Sevens on the Global Stage

Rugby Sevens is a variant of Rugby Union in which only seven players per team, rather than the standard 15, are on the pitch an any given time. The fundamentals of Rugby – such as running, passing and tough tackling – are still central components in Rugby Sevens. However, due to the pitch size being the same as a standard Rugby Union pitch, competitors are tasked with covering a lot of ground. Due to this, Rugby Sevens players need to be extremely mobile, full of pace and power, and have plenty of skill and stamina to meet the demands of the game.

The popularity of Rugby Sevens has grown enormously over time, as demonstrated by the impressive growth of the International Rugby Board (IRB) Rugby Sevens Worlds Series, an annual series of international rugby sevens tournaments run by World Rugby in 10 countries across the globe, as well as the game’s inclusion in both the Commonwealth Games from 1998 and more recently at the Rio Olympic Games in 2016. That Olympic debut in Rio saw Team GB so nearly top the podium before losing the gold medal match to Fiji. Team GB still secured a silver medal however, with Scotsmen Mark Bennett and Mark Robertson, both part of Team Scotland at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, playing a pivotal part.

Rugby Sevens at the Commonwealth Games

Rugby Sevens made its Commonwealth Games debut at the 1998 Games in Kuala Lumpur as a core sport and has been a fixture at every Games since. The sport has typically been dominated by Southern hemisphere teams with 18 of the 21 medals available being won by four southern nations: New Zealand (7), Fiji (4), Australia (4), and South Africa (3). England are the only non-Southern hemisphere nation to ever claim a Commonwealth Games medal with their notable haul of three. The Gold Coast 2018 Games were the first to feature a Women’s Sevens tournament with Birmingham 2022 set to follow suit.

Scotland’s men made their Games debut at Manchester 2002 where they finished in 7th position after beating Tonga 40 – 26 in the Bowl Final. This great debut performance by Scotland has only been matched once in 2014 – when roared on by the boisterous, ferocious support of the home crowd in Glasgow – and only bettered twice in Delhi 2010 and most recently at Gold Coast 2018. Scotland’s Women’s Sevens have yet to make an appearance at the Games and, after missing out on the 2018 event, will hope make their debut in Birmingham in 2022.

Scotland’s highest capped players at the Commonwealth Games are winger Lee Jones and prop Scott Riddell (Riddell is also the most capped Scottish player in Rugby 7s history). They are the only Scottish players to represent their nation at three different Games: Delhi 2010, Glasgow 2014 and Gold Coast 2018. Only a select few players have played for Scotland in both formats of Rugby Union (7s and Test) including Sean Lamont who appeared at Manchester 2002 and Glasgow 2014 as well as being the second most capped Scot in International Rugby Union history with 105 caps. Test Captain Stuart Hogg also played for the national 7s team when he played at Glasgow 2014 when he was just 22 years old.

The Road to Birmingham 2022

With just over two years until the 2022 Games get underway, Rugby fans around the world have two World Series campaigns and the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo to look forward to before the action begins in Birmingham. One player to keep an eye on in the build up is Femi Sofolarin, a US-born, former Scotland youth international who represented Team GB in the qualifying for the 2018 Youth Olympic Games. A winger by trade, with all the pace and power demanded by that position, he has been touted as one to watch and one of the future stars of Scottish Rugby. Having played for both England and Scotland in previous IRB World Sevens Series he has now pledged his allegiance to Scotland.

The fortunes of the Women’s 7s side have been on the rise, promoted into the top flight of Rugby Europe Grand Prix Series after winning the Trophy division in 2017. They have more than held their own in the top division with 4th place in 2018 and 5th in 2019. They also narrowly missed out on promotion into the World Series in 2019 and were granted a wildcard invite to the final World Series event of the 2019 season in Biarritz, France where they finished 11th. Six Scotland players have also been selected to be part of the extended GB 7s squad who will compete for a place in the final squad for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Megan Gaffney, Rhona Lloyd, Helen Nelson, Chloe Rollie, Hannah Smith and Lisa Thomson are named as part of the 24-strong squad which will be narrowed to 13 players just ahead of the Olympic Games in July.

Find out more about Rugby Sevens at the Commonwealth Games on our dedicated Rugby 7s page.

Youth Games Success

Rugby Sevens has been included in the Commonwealth Youth Games on four occasions: 2004, 2011, 2015 and 2017 with a women’s tournament introduced for the first time in 2015. With participation by invitation from the Commonwealth Games Federation, Scotland fielded a men’s team in 2004 and 2011 and have yet to field a women’s team. Scotland’s best finish was at the 2011 Youth Games in the Isle of Man where they narrowly missed out on a medal by finishing in 4th place. Following defeat to eventual gold medal winners England in the quarter-finals, Scotland faced Australia in the bronze medal match where, in an agonisingly close game, Australia came out on top 15-12. Captain of that Youth Games team, Jamie Farndale, went on to represent Scotland at Gold Coast 2018 along with 2011 team mate Robbie Fergusson.

Scotland at the Commonwealth Games

The Commonwealth Games is the only occasion where Scotland gets to compete in a multi-sport event as a nation in its own right and is one of only six countries to have competed in every Commonwealth Games since their inception in Hamilton in 1930. Represented by 15 athletes participating in six sports at those first Games, and winning a very creditable 10 medals, Scotland have gone on to win medals at every Games since.

Edinburgh became the first city to hold the Games twice in 1970 and 1986 and also became the first city to host the Commonwealth Youth Games.

Scotland hosted the Games for a third time when Glasgow welcomed athletes and officials to the XXth Commonwealth Games from 23rd July – 3rd August 2014. That year, team Scotland celebrated their most successful Games in history, winning a total of 53 medals. The team then went on to record their highest ever overseas medal tally at Gold Coast in 2018.

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