• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Scotland's sevens could be springboard for the next Mike Blair or Jonah Lomu

PART of the fun of sevens is talent spotting.

Mike Blair believes that his performances in the format won him his first Scotland cap. Picture: SNS
Mike Blair believes that his performances in the format won him his first Scotland cap. Picture: SNS

While there is a core group of specialists who will never go on to careers in XVs, just about anybody aged below 21 on the field at Scotstoun this weekend at the HSBC World Series Sevens might the next Jonah Lomu or Bryan Habana. Or, closer to home, Mike Blair.

What they all have in common is that sevens is where they first sprang to international attention. Blair, an ambassador for this weekend's tournament in Glasgow, believes it was the abbreviated version of the game that launched his international career and he is looking forward to trying to spot the youngsters competing this weekend who are on the verge of the same breakthrough.

"For me, it was massive," he said. "The year when I was a year too young for Scotland under-21s, I was reserve full-back in one game against England and did not actually play. That summer I was chosen for the sevens under Rob Moffatt and Roy Laidlaw and that was the break that brought me in to professional rugby and a higher standard of play.

"Off the back of the sevens I was selected for Scotland A while still at Boroughmuir and ultimately that is what caught the eye of Ian McGeechan before the North America tour of 2002 [when he won the first of his 85 caps]. For me going from not being in the picture with the under-21s to being capped the following year, the only thing different I can see was what happened with the sevens. I am really grateful for what sevens did for me, it was the springboard to XVs."

So look around the Scotland team. Are the likes of Alex Glashan, Michael Maltman or Chris Dean the next to go from being youngsters only the real aficionados know about to players with long professional careers and dozens of caps? Only time will tell but for Blair, they all have an extra incentive this week since the Scotstoun tournament is almost a dress-rehearsal for the Commonwealth Games event at Ibrox.

"I played in the 2002 Commonwealth Games and it is a great event to be part of," he recalled. "It was not great timing for me because we had just got back from the Scotland tour but I was so pleased to be part of it.

"Being part of that big Scotland national team, hanging around in the village with all the other athletes and seeing how hard they work was incredible, it is a unique environment.

"This is a big year for the sevens team, with this tournament and the Commonwealth Games. In the World Series they are lower than they want to be though there has been some positive progress this year. If they can get some consistency in their game they can beat the tough sides."

Unfortunately Blair's own involvement as a supporter over the two days is likely to be cut short by his own playing demands. Though he retired from international rugby 15 months ago - and despite, or maybe because of, the national team's recent results says he has no regrets - he is under contract at Newcastle Falcons, who face Wasps this weekend in a match where a win would lift the threat of relegation and a losing bonus point might be enough.

"I've enjoyed living there; the rugby side, some has been great and some really frustrating," he said. "Relegation puts a lot of pressure on teams at the bottom and restricts the way you want to play. It's been tough in the sense that relegation has always been partly on the mind but it has been a great experience, something different."

Mike Blair is an HSBC Ambassador and has travelled around Scotland with the HSBC Sevens World Series Trophy ahead of this weekend's Glasgow Sevens.

Contextual targeting label: 
Sport

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

230367