IN a week when there has been a furore over the - quickly debunked - suggestion of segregated stadiums at next year's Rugby World Cup, the Emirates Glasgow Sevens this weekend is preparing to lay on another demonstration of the sport's greatest strength - the camaraderie, friendship and inclusive atmosphere that is its strongest tradition.
Which is one reason the organisers have been intent on spreading the word not only to all ages and sporting pedigrees, but also heading further out into the community, to include the disabled, who might have felt put off by the scale of the event. So it was that Colin Shaw, the sevens specialist recalled to the squad after recovering from a shoulder injury, was able to take a break from training to join The Clan, a club based in Kilmarnock that caters for disabled and non-disabled alike.
It was, he admitted a bit of an eye-opener as he joined a training session and later handed out tickets for the event and donated kit to the players. "I knew nothing of the team before I met them. It's a great concept. Just speaking to Jamie Armstrong, the coach, he was saying that prior to the team forming 18 months ago, most of the lads were struggling from a confidence side of things but since joining, he has seen a complete 180 degrees change in them. For me, a great thing for all these lads is having a team to be part of and team mates to spend time with. I was not so much coaching but being one of the players. It was great to meet the guys, see what it is all about and join in with them. They are all so keen to be there, it is great to see them all enjoying it."
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After the support Shaw gave them, The Clan, one of only eight such mixed teams in the world, are planning to reciprocate by turning up at Scotsoun to lend their support for the player and his colleagues as they bid to make it into the final stages of the main tournament for the first time this season after coming close but narrowly failing in all bar one of the seven events in the HSBC World Series staged so far.
For a team lying 12th, it is always going to be hard to make the breakthrough, since they are always likely to be facing at least two teams ranked ahead of them, but this time the Scots players believe the draw has been kind to them.
They face Australia, USA and Spain in the pool stage, and they have been able to strengthen their side with an influx of domestic players, including a trio capped at full 15-a-side international level in Lee Jones, the wing, plus Richie Vernon and Nick De Luca, the centres.
"It has been in the pipeline for a bit," said De Luca. "It didn't happen the time before, things came up and the idea came a cropper but this time it came off. The main thing that sevens gives is that the pressure you are under is immense compared with fifteens, the spotlight is on you whether you have the ball or not; your skills, your footwork and defence. It is an incredibly difficult game so if you can survive out there you will do well at fifteens."
Personally, he is just delighted to be out on the pitch again after being snubbed for the last few weeks by his Edinburgh club - he moves to Biarritz over the summer and has almost certainly played his final game for them. "I have been twiddling my thumbs at Edinburgh, so I'm delighted to go out and test myself on a great stage," he said "It has been very frustrating, but just one of those things. You can't understand what coaches want, so it is just head down, train hard and it is now holding me in good stead. It can do no harm and I enjoy attacking rugby and that is what this is."
De Luca is so much out of favour at his club, even a sparkling sevens tournament might not be enough to bring him into consideration for the Scotland summer tour, but that is not going to let him take things easy. "I will look at this weekend first -it is is my priority to put in a performance for these boys who have worked hard all year. It is up to me to make sure I am at a level that is good enough. I hope we can get to the cup final on day two; at the moment this is my goal and priority."
It would all go to help make the party atmosphere all the more special and help the members of The Clan remember their day out as enthusiastically as they remember Shaw's visit.