IT'S not just bad things that come in batches.

Look at Mark Bennett: a key role in Glasgow's stirring RaboDirect PRO12 semi-final win over Munster; then, within 48 hours, comes the phone call to tell him he is being given another starring part in the "strongest ever" Scotland Sevens squad for the city's Commonwealth Games.

The idea is that he is in there with a realistic chance of a medal and the powers-that-be at Murrayfield have pulled out all the stops trying to make that dream come true. Sean Lamont, the 86-cap 15-a-side veteran, and Tommy Seymour, his younger protege at Glasgow Warriors, are both sacrificing time on the Scotland tour to join him in the sevens side.

Loading article content

They are joined by Richie Vernon and Lee Jones, who have both won full Test caps, in a squad that is strong on experience. The younger talent who have done service over the last year on the World Series circuit - without achieving much - have been by-and-large sidelined.

Eight of the Games group are on full-time 15-a-side contracts, mainly with Glasgow, and only four are on central sevens deals.

There are a couple of surprise omissions. Andrew Turnbull is Scotland's leading try scorer at sevens but cannot get into the squad, while one does wonder why they bothered calling up Edinburgh's Nick De Luca for the Glasgow leg of the World Series earlier this month if he was not going to be released by Biarritz, his new club, in midsummer.

Apart from that, once the decision had been made to bring in the big guns, it must have been reasonably straightforward for Stevie Gemmell, the head coach. "It is the strongest squad I have ever named in my time as Scotland's sevens coach," he said.

"I am very confident. I was tasked with medalling in these home Games and I believe I have assembled a squad capable of doing that. Like anything, any performance, you need a bit of a fair wind, you need things to go your way, but I am certainly confident that this will be the best prepared and strongest sevens squad that Scotland has put out. I am looking forward to achieving success.

"It has the right balance of players capable of competing with the very best in the world, which is what we are up against. It is one that builds on the formula we showed in Scotstoun at the beginning of May which showed that a Scotland sevens team with the right preparation, the right personnel and the home crowd is capable of being in the last stages of the cup competition, which is where we need to be."

Of course, for those in, and on the fringes of, the Scotland Test team, there is the downside of lost caps, though Bennett was quick to see the bright side of the decision to keep him at home. "Disappointed, yes, because my aim is to play for Scotland at fifteens, but I'm absolutely delighted that I'm one of the few who are going to get an opportunity to play at a Commonwealth Games, never mind a home Commonwealth Games. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," he said.

"It is a squad full of high-quality players and we've really got an opportunity to put in a performance. We've said that our aim is to medal and I think we can go out and do that. No matter what level you are performing at, if you've got that desire to win there is pressure. Whether that is coming from your team-mates, or whether that's coming from the supporters, there's always pressure there and it's just something you have to deal with. It can really push us on."

Many of the squad were involved in the side that reached the semi-final at Scotstoun at the start of the month, an event that provided both a confidence boost and a warning, since Canada, who beat Scotland in that semi-final, are one of their group opponents along with New Zealand, the overwhelming favourites for the title, who thrashed Canada in the final.

Bennett was on Glasgow duty in Treviso that weekend, as was Seymour, who was busy scoring a hat trick, but the strengthening of the squad has given him confidence. "It's plain that Tommy [Seymour] and Sean [Lamont] have got a lot of experience. They will come into this and hit the ground running, and perform just as well as they do in fifteens. There will be a lot of people watching who wouldn't normally watch rugby. If we can convert them into rugby fans then the impact that will have on the game in Scotland is huge."