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Party time

Nineteen years have now gone since Scotland did the whole of rugby a favour by showing the world how not to run a sevens tournament.

Glasgow will be seeking to put on just as good a show as Hong Kong   Photograph: Getty
Glasgow will be seeking to put on just as good a show as Hong Kong Photograph: Getty

For those of us who were there, the 1993 World Cup of Sevens at Murrayfield remains a perversely vivid memory, an object lesson in how to totally screw things up on every possible front.

The tournament took place on a cold and cheerless Edinburgh weekend in April, and in a stadium that was in the middle of a major redevelopment. The organisers dished up an event of unparalleled grimness, rescued at the death only by the happy-go-lucky approach of the England team who won the thing.

That, in itself, was an eloquent repudiation of the notion that sevens should ever be taken too seriously. Scotland had warmed up for the tournament by sending their squad halfway round the world, playing in just about any event that would have them. Unsurprisingly, they finished bottom of their group.

England, by hilarious contrast, threw a few players together, sent them to Edinburgh and told them to give it a lash. The Murrayfield crowd, with memories of 1990 still strong, treated them like pantomime baddies on the first day, but gradually warmed to their way of doing things. Tim Rodber, Lawrence Dallaglio and, especially, Andy Harriman glistened with athleticism and they walloped Australia in the final. Harriman outsprinting David Campese for a try was the abiding image of the tournament.

Against that backdrop, it was hardly surprising that the International Rugby Board would subsequently wait a few years before launching their Sevens World Series in 1999. Yet when they did finally get their show on the road, they showed they had taken a few lessons from Murrayfield on board. Chastened by the earnest girn-fest that was the 1993 event, they determined that their tournaments should put a smile on people's faces.

That enlightened approach offers ample reason to celebrate the arrival of the series in Glasgow next weekend. Murrayfield has been home to Scotland's leg of what is now known as the HSBC Sevens World Series for the past six years, but as heroic as the efforts of fans and organisers might have been, the national stadium has always been too soulless and cavernous for an event that is essentially intimate.

In which light, the move along the M8 and the establishment of the Emirates Airline Glasgow 7s at Scotstoun is one that should be warmly welcomed. It is also a significant event in the history of the sport in the city, as Scotstoun, which will have a 15,000 capacity for the tournament, will also be home to the Glasgow Warriors next season. The value of this dry run with a major rugby event cannot be overstated.

It is also rich in meaning and sentiment for Colin Gregor, pictured, a stalwart of Glasgow rugby for the past dozen years, a span that encompasses his involvement in the famous run by Strathendrick, his home club, in 2000. Gregor is fast approaching his 31st birthday and, while his enthusiasm is undimmed, he is starting to feel the weight of his years in a Scotland sevens squad largely plucked from the ranks of the nation's most promising youngsters.

"I suppose a lot of them are quite young," he said carefully. "There's no denying that they have different tastes in music, if you can call what they listen to music. We're almost different generations, I suppose, but rugby players share a lot of things regardless of age."

The establishment of a full-time, dedicated squad gave an overdue boost to the Scotland sevens effort, but its callow character has meant the Scots have mostly been in the mix for the consolation prizes at the HSBC Sevens World Series tournaments over the past few months. Gregor, however, is convinced that more serious silverware is within their grasp.

"We've had a season of running the big teams close but not turning any of them over," he said. "We've not been helped by injuries, which has meant some young guys were thrown in at the deep end. They've done well, but we just need to get over the next hurdle. If we can get one win against one of the big teams then I'm sure we'll kick on and start doing it regularly."

The Scottish squad next weekend will mostly be made up of the same players who have been doing noble service in their country's cause for the past six months, although the conscription of Edinburgh's Jim Thompson and John Houston does suggest the side might have a more hard-edged look. That policy has served Scotland well on home soil in the past, and Gregor goes into the penultimate event of the World Series in confident mood, and looking forward to the occasion as a whole.

"Playing at Murrayfield is special, but I think Scotstoun will be a great stadium," he said. "I think that will help the atmosphere. And the fact it's in Glasgow obviously makes it particularly special for me. A lot more work seems to have gone into promoting it this year. I really hope that pays off and the Glasgow public buys into it. They do tend to enjoy a party."

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