Glasgow Sevens: Scotland focused on performances, says MacRae

Scotland Sevens boss dismisses speculation about future ahead of their home leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series at Scotstoun

By Gareth Llewellyn

Calum MacRae insists it is business as usual for Scotland ahead of this weekend’s Glasgow Sevens.

The penultimate round of the 2014/15 HSBC Sevens World Series at Scotstoun Stadium has already sold out both days for what is expected to be the last time the event will be held in Scotland until 2020 at the earliest, possibly a boost after a thrilling two days of sevens rugby at Ibrox during last summer’s Commonwealth Games in the city, or a nod to the fact that this could be the last hurrah.

There’s been speculation about the last tournament at Glasgow and that hasn’t been confirmed by World Rugby as yet, so our focus remains the same and I haven’t seen a drop in the players’ demeanour at all.

Scotland Sevens head coach Calum MacRae

Reports earlier this year have claimed that Glasgow will lose its place on the World Series calendar to Paris and the Scottish Rugby Union is thinking about pulling the plug on its sevens programme to redirect funds into other areas of the game, potentially heaping extra pressure on the 12-man squad to deliver big in a bid to save their jobs and international careers.

But the Scotland Sevens head coach believes that the speculation about the future of international sevens rugby in the country has not had a negative impact on his squad of full-time players ahead of their home tournament.

“I don’t think it’s been too much of a distraction,” MacRae said.

“The players are a very professional bunch.

“There’s been speculation about the last tournament at Glasgow and that hasn’t been confirmed by World Rugby as yet, so our focus remains the same and I haven’t seen a drop in the players’ demeanour at all.

“They’ve stuck to task, as I’d expect them to do, because what we’re playing for at the moment is important to the players in terms of going for the highest-ranking finish that we have.

“It’s always very special for any Scottish side to come and play in front of our home crowd, bolstered by the fact that it’s a sell out over the two days.

“I know the guys are looking forward to continuing the run of form they’ve shown this year so far.”

Listen to Scotland Sevens back James Fleming explain his “glamorous” life on the HSBC Sevens World Series circuit:

A former Scotland Sevens international, MacRae left a coaching post with Aviva Premiership club Newcastle Falcons last summer to succeed Stephen Gemmell at the helm with visions far beyond his maiden season in charge.

Rather than set the squad ambitious targets in the World Series standings, MacRae implemented performance-related goals with a focus on shoring up their defence, topped off with the ambition to play in the Cup competition on finals day of every round of the globe-trotting campaign.

It is a model that has served Scotland well so far this season due, in part, to a settled squad of full-time players and a smattering of players, including Glasgow Warriors duo James Eddie and Lee Jones, with the requisite skillsets to move across from the 15-a-side game and slot seamlessly into the abbreviated form of the game

Seasoned campaigners are equally important and Scotland are not short of them with the likes of Mark Robertson (36 World Series caps) and current captain Scott Riddell (39 World Series caps) both regulars in the squad.

There has been talk about aiming for our highest ever finish and that’s brilliant, but our main focus doesn’t alter – we’re going in purely focused on day one and the three games we’ve got on day one.

Calum MacRae

Former captain Colin Gregor, who moved up to fourth place on the all-time World Series points scorers table last time out in Tokyo ahead of Sevens legend Waisale Serevi, will equal Andrew Turnbull’s 57 caps on the World Series when he lines up in Glasgow this weekend.

After seven legs of the World Series, Scotland have reached the Cup quarter-finals four times and retained their Bowl title at the iconic Hong Kong event last month.

More importantly, the consistency that MacRae’s charges have so far delivered has seen them rise from a disappointing 12th overall last season to pushing for a place in the top six, their 67 points enough to occupy seventh place – just four points behind the USA – ahead of the final two rounds in Glasgow and London.

And the head coach admits that his players will not need too much extra motivation to continue their run of form when they line up against Portugal, Wales and title-chasing Fiji on Saturday afternoon.

“It’s nice to do it away from home, but it means a lot more to the guys when they can do it in front of family, friends and a lot of really passionate supporters,” he added.

“It’s good to set goals at the start of the year, but ours were generally performance goals as opposed to outcome ones.

“There has been talk about aiming for our highest ever finish and that’s brilliant, but our main focus doesn’t alter – we’re going in purely focused on day one and the three games we’ve got on day one.

“They’re three very good teams – they’ve shown that on their day they can turn over any team in the competition.

“We’ve shown good form against the three teams. With the work that guys have done on our structures and strategies, I know if we deliver on the things that we’re good at we should see ourselves right in terms of outcomes.”

After Scotland shocked South Africa in the Cup quarter-finals at Scotstoun 12 months ago, they lost to Canada in the semi-finals, before going down to Fiji in the third-place play-off, but there will be an expectation that MacRae’s in-form Scotland should again achieve their targeted outcomes in front of a packed house.

MacRae has made two changes to the squad that lined up in Hong Kong and Tokyo last month with a Glasgow Warriors swap out as Eddie replaces Fraser Lyle and stand-off Gavin Lowe coming in for Lee Jones, who is expected to be involved in the club’s Guinness PRO12 match at the Ospreys on Friday night.

Scotland Sevens Squad for Glasgow and London: Scott Riddell (captain), James Eddie (Glasgow Warriors), Gavin Lowe (Glasgow Warriors), James Johnstone, Colin Gregor, Mark Robertson, Damien Hoyland (Edinburgh Rugby), Nyle Godsmark, Joseva Nayacavou, Russell Weir, James Fleming, Chris Dean (Edinburgh Rugby).

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