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More at stake than points as seven-a-side bids to win public

CAN this be the year Glasgow finally falls in love with seven-a-side rugby?

James Eddie races through the Heriots defence to score a try for Glasgow at the Aberdeen Asset Management Melrose 7s tournament. Picture: SNS/SRU
James Eddie races through the Heriots defence to score a try for Glasgow at the Aberdeen Asset Management Melrose 7s tournament. Picture: SNS/SRU

The short answer is: it has to be. With two major tournaments less than 12 weeks apart, there is a lot of credibility hanging on the city's ability to come up with the goods in terms of passion and numbers.

The pressure starts today when the Scottish leg of the HSBC World Series Sevens kicks off at Scotstoun, but for many, including many of the players, this is just the warm-up for the main event, the Commonwealth Games at the end of July where the sevens tournament at Ibrox is one of the big showpiece sports.

For somebody like James Eddie, the Glasgow Warriors flanker born and brought up in the city, that element of civic pride is a huge part of the event. "Being our home ground, it is exciting to be playing at Scotstoun for Scotland," he said. "It is a definitely a big year for sevens in Glasgow - 100%. It is really exciting.

"It is an exciting squad too, very competitive so nobody is guaranteed to be in the Commonwealth Games squad, which makes this weekend the best trial for the coaches and all that. Everybody is going to be eyeballs-out to get into that squad."

There are plenty of reasons why the organisers need this event to do well and attract a big crowd. For a start it is the dress rehearsal for the Games, a demonstration of how easy it is going to be to drum up enthusiasm when most of the same teams turn up for the bigger one-off event, itself is a precursor to sevens making its debut in the Olympics in 2016.

As far as the World Series is concerned, Scotland has more immediate issues. With only about 15,000 places to be filled at Scotstoun, they are relying on a decent walk-up crowd to fill the ground - by contrast, the event at Twickenham next week has already sold out the first day, with 75,000 tickets having gone, and is well on the way to filling the stadium for day two as well.

Scotstoun has only one more year before its deal with the International Rugby Board ends, and though the Scottish Rugby Union have put in an early expression of interest to keep the event, they are facing an uphill battle. Not only will they have they have lost the Commonwealth Games as a bargaining chip, but they also face stiffer competition next time round with 24 countries having said they would like to host a leg of the series. The success of the English event means they are likely to keep theirs, but Scotland faces intense competition from Wales for the second of the legs to be staged in Britain.

As a result, there is no shortage of reasons why this weekend's event matters. "There are not many people who can say they have played in a home Commonwealth Games," Eddie pointed out. "I would love it but I know I have to play well this weekend and the rest of the season for the club. We have a really good pool.

"We need to start well against Australia and then the USA will be tough, but we know that it is in our hands to get out of the pool and into the knockout stages. For us, the important thing is to make sure we perform well for the whole 14 minutes of each game. We don't want to feel we attacked well but defence let us down or that we defended well but did not get the scores we needed. It is about the complete performance.

"It is really good being at home so that we have had a bit more time to prepare and have not had to get over jet lag or anything. It was also good to be able to pop out and meet the family, but everybody is thinking about nothing but the games this weekend."

As far as the non-Scottish elements of the tournament are concerned, New Zealand come into the event in top spot in the overall series with three wins so far and have an excellent track record in Scotland, so they are outright favourites. They cannot actually clinch the title, however, unless South Africa, Fiji and England, the next three in the chase to catch them, all crash out early.

South Africa are their closest rivals, having reached the finals of five of the seven legs already played and won twice. Fiji have also won twice but have been a lot more inconsistent while England are even further back and without a win this season.

"We know we can beat our pool rivals so it is just a question of putting in the performances," Eddie said. "I just hope we can get a crowd, fingers crossed that the weather is good and that encourages people to come down and watch."

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