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Six to follow: Home is where the heart is for globetrotter

Glance at his schedule for the next eight months and you would probably guess that Michael Maltman had just landed one of the less onerous gigs the United Nations has in its gift.

With his girlfriend already having booked her place in the Scotland team for Glasgow 2014, Michael Maltman is hoping to join her    Photograph: Stewart Attwood
With his girlfriend already having booked her place in the Scotland team for Glasgow 2014, Michael Maltman is hoping to join her Photograph: Stewart Attwood

Hopping from Australia to Dubai or between Japan and Hong Kong, the East Lothian 23-year-old's travels are unlikely to be inconvenienced by war, pestilence or strife, while the Foreign Office has yet to issue any warnings about passing a few days in Wellington or Las Vegas either.

Throw in the fact that Maltman's line of work takes him to events that are as notorious for Bacchanalian excess as they are renowned for athletic excellence, and it is easy to understand why his mates cast envious glances in his direction every time he packs his bags for yet another excursion. In which light, his reluctance to complain about his lot might demonstrate a touching regard for their feelings, but it also disguises the fact that his chosen career as an international sevens player places him at the most gruelling end of sport's spectrum.

"It's amazing to travel to all the places we go to," conceded Maltman shortly before starting his journey to the Gold Coast, Australia, where the opening round of the 2013-14 HSBC Sevens World Series will be staged next weekend. "But the amount of training we do far surpasses what, say, Edinburgh and Glasgow do in terms of top speed, miles covered and even intensity.

"Yes, it is fun when we are out there, but it can never be a holiday. The tournaments are not always enjoyable either, because the days are long mental tests, and physical tests as well. Playing six games over a weekend at World Series standard is a pretty tough thing to do."

Yet, as he also admitted, there is a rather large prize on offer at the end of it all. Shortly after the IRB World Series has reached its completion in England next May, the Scottish Rugby Union will select the 12 players who will make up the national squad for the Commonwealth Games tournament at Ibrox just over two months later.

Maltman, previously a strapping flanker for Musselburgh, Heriot's and, on a two-year sojourn south of the border, English side Moseley, joined the Scotland sevens squad last year. Although self-effacing by instinct, that he was subsequently chosen for all eight events on the world circuit is testament enough to his qualities as a player. Even so, he is taking nothing for granted as far as Glasgow 2014 is concerned.

"It is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to have the Commonwealth Games at home," said Maltman. "For anyone who misses out it will be pretty tough. I'm definitely not a certainty, so I don't really feel all that confident. It completely depends on what kind of squad they decide to go for. Going by past performances, I certainly wouldn't be guaranteed a place, but everyone wants to be part of it and the competition to get in drives standards up."

As if having rivals breathing down his neck was not enough, Maltman has the added pressure of his domestic circumstances. His partner, Libby Clegg, who suffers from a degenerative eye condition, is one of Britain's leading paralympic athletes, the 100m silver medallist in the T12 class in London last year, and already selected for the Scotland team for Glasgow. The prospect of waving her off while he stays at home next summer is not one he relishes.

"Barring injuries, she already knows she will be there," he said. "I'm not going to find out until a few weeks before it all begins. But it would be amazing if we were both in the team. I was in London last year and the atmosphere around the Games was incredible.

"It was actually worse to be watching it from the crowd. Libby felt it was probably one of the best experiences of her life, but I just felt so powerless watching from the sidelines. Hopefully I will not be just a supporter come the Commonwealth Games. I don't think my nerves could handle that again. But it was incredible and inspirational just to be around the team in London last year. These events, which bring competitors from all sports together, are pretty unique and special. And it would be even more special to be part of a team in your own country. I'm really relishing the thought of competing for Scotland, in Scotland, and doing us proud."

For the moment, the Scotland sevens squad is made up of 17 players. Only 12 are selected for each World Series event. Although there is a chance that other players, even full Scotland internationals, could be drafted in to bolster resources ahead of the Commonwealth Games, coach Stevie Gemmell has made it clear that the bulk of the 2014 squad will be made up of those who have done service on the world circuit over the course of the preceding season.

Sevens may have been a Scottish invention, famously dreamt up by Melrose butcher Ned Haig in 1883, but the Scots have not exactly been setting the heather alight since the inception of the international series in 1999. At one point, the SRU toyed with the idea of doing away with a national sevens side altogether, but the acceptance of sevens as an Olympic sport has given new impetus to the format.

Maltman agreed that involvement in the inaugural Rio Olympics event in 2016 would be a worthy aspiration, but nothing more than that for the time being. "That would be a long-term ambition, but for the moment I'm just concentrating on the season ahead."

Having played in the same Scotland Under-20 pack as Dave Denton and Stuart McInally, the 6ft 2in, 102kg Maltman is also leaving the door open for a possible return to the 15-a-side game. In recent weeks he has had a couple of impressive RBS Premiership outings for Heriot's, and he believes the experience has been useful, regardless of what direction his career might take.

"It is really good getting that regular element of physicality again," he said. "There can be a month or two between sevens events, so it keeps you on top of things.

"Also, in a sevens game you might have five or 10 contacts, but because of the numbers in the national squad we can't always replicate that intensity in training. Playing 80 minutes at the weekend gives you that physical experience, gets you making tackles and everything else.

"It's also fun just to go back and play with people you've played with for a long time and know really well. If the possibility of playing 15s full time again came up then I would have to consider it, but for the moment I'm absolutely focused on the sevens squad and will be for the foreseeable future. The Commonwealth Games is the goal."

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