SCOTLAND will have to meet Australia in the pool section of the

inaugural Rugby World Cup Sevens at Murrayfield in April, it was

announced in Edinburgh yesterday. Argentina, Italy, Tonga, and Taiwan

are in the same group.

No draw, however, was made. Instead, the 24 contestants were drawn up

in a ranking list, and they were placed in the pools according to those


An ideal promotion opportunity was thus lost by the failure to make a

draw at least before the eyes of press and television cameras. Rugby

World Cup, the tournament organisers, have also left themselves open to

suspicion of a carve-up.

Why, for instance, are England seeded fourth when they have no form as

a national team in sevens apart from winning the Scottish Rugby Union's

centenary tournament? That was 18 years ago, and England have never put

themselves to the test in the Hong Kong tournament, the most obvious

gauge of international sevens ability. Personal preference would have

been for France as fourth seeds if only because the abbreviated game has

been ideal for them on those few occasions when they put their minds to

it, as when the French Barbarians won the Melrose centenary sevens in


Marcel Martin, the Frenchman who chairs Rugby World Cup, gave three

reasons why the teams were placed rather than drawn. First, he and his

fellow organisers had to start from scratch, with no sevens criterion

for several of the competing nations, apart from those who regularly

take part in the Hong Kong tournament. Secondly, countries from the same

geographic zone had to be kept apart, and, thirdly, the first two days

of the tournament, April 16 and 17, had to be used fairly to rank the

quarter-final pools.

''A lot of people'' had input to drawing up the rankings, Martin

added. The RWC directors had their say. So had Keith Rowlands, the

International Rugby Football Board secretary, and Charlie Bisset, the

Scottish Rugby Union committee member who is tournament manager. Five

members of the press, including your correspondent, also were asked to

seed -- note that verb -- the 24 countries, though I wonder if my list

could have been considered when it was sent in only two weeks ago. That

was within the deadline set by the IRFB secretary, but the organisers

must have contracted very accommodating printers when a full-colour

poster publicising the tournament schedule was available yesterday.

Fiji have been ranked first, understandably so as holders and regular

winners of the Hong Kong tournament. New Zealand, runners-up to Fiji in

Hong Kong earlier this year, are rated second, with Australia third.

Following England, Western Samoa are fifth, Scotland sixth, France

seventh, South Africa eighth, Wales ninth, Ireland tenth, and Argentina


''It's not an easy pool,'' Douglas Morgan, Scotland's sevens coach,

remarked about his team's place. Australia, obviously, are the ones to

beat, Tonga can be expected to be physical, like Fiji and Western Samoa,

and Taiwan are liable ''to run all over the place.'' The Scots, Morgan

added, will have ''to adapt game by game.''

Scotland's first tie in April's tournament, sponsored by The Famous

Grouse whisky, will be against Tonga on the afternoon of the first day.

The big one against Australia will be the last in the Scots' programme

the following day at 12.33.

Winners and runners-up in each pool will go through to the Sunday

quarter-final pools. The third to sixth will contest subsidiary events,

and no fewer than 81 games will be played over the three days. More than

eight hours of rugby will be packed into the first two days, with the

main final scheduled for 5.16 on the Sunday, though that may have to be

amended because of ITV's programming demands.

To ensure the smooth running of such a schedule the organisers have

enlisted Scotland's sevens experts. Jack Dun, with long experience of

the Melrose sevens, and seven Greenyards colleagues will be in charge of

keeping the teams to a strict timetable that allows only 17 minutes for

each tie.

As another connection with the home of sevens, the main tournament's

trophy will be known as the Melrose Cup. Not only does it recognise the

birth of the abbreviated game at the Greenyards, but the trophy itself

will be modelled on the Ladies' Cup that was contested in 1883 -- and

won by the host club -- when Ned Haig, the Melrose butcher, dreamed up

the idea of seven-a-side rugby. His mind would boggle at what is planned

for his concept 110 years later. The sections:

Pool A -- Fiji, South Africa, Wales, Romania, Japan, Latvia. Pool B --

New Zealand, France, Ireland, Korea, USA, Netherlands. Pool C --

Australia, Scotland, Argentina, Italy, Tonga, Taiwan. Pool D -- England,

Western Samoa, Canada, Namibia, Spain, Hong Kong.