WHEN Robbie Fergusson takes the field for Scotland in the Rugby World Cup Sevens next weekend, it will be the climax of a highly promising first season with the national squad for the 24-year-old. More significantly, it will set the seal on a remarkable recovery from a condition which threatened to end his career almost before it had begun.

Success came early for a player who made his debut for hometown club Ayr while still at school, and his talent was quickly recognised by call-ups to Scotland’s age-group sides. Thirteen caps at Under-20 level followed, including appearances at two Junior World Cups, and a senior career of serious achievement seemed certain.

Then illness intervened. Diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in early 2014, Fergusson needed six months of chemotherapy before making his comeback at club level late the same year.

Those dark days are far behind him now, but their memory has rendered his return to the upper echelons of the sport all the more enjoyable.

“I had a couple of Under-20s World Cups in South Africa and France, then I got ill and rugby was the last thing on my mind,” Fergusson recalled before flying out to San Francisco with the squad. “I never thought I’d go to a Sevens World Cup. It will be a pleasure.”

It will become all the more pleasurable, of course, the further Scotland progress in the competition, but the going will be tough. In contrast to the usual group-stages format of the World Series, RWC Sevens, which features 24 teams, is straight knockout (there are 16 teams contesting the women’s event which Scotland failed to qualify for). Lose to the winners of the qualifying tie between Kenya and Tonga, and Scotland will be out of the main event and into the second-tier Challenge Trophy.

“You’d probably favour Kenya over the Tongans on form,” Fergusson said. “They’re big, physical athletes, come at you hard and look to off-load. Defensively they’ll really come at us at the breakdown, so technically we need to be good.”

Head coach John Dalziel worked with Fergusson at Scotland Under-20s and at London Scottish, and has every confidence in the player’s determination and attention to detail.

“I’ve just got the utmost respect for him as a person,” Dalziel said. “He’s been through a lot in his life. He’s resilient, an absolute professional. He’s probably as diligent as any pro I’ve played with or worked with off the field.”

Rugby World Cup Sevens (San Francisco, from Friday):

Qualifying round: Kenya v Tonga (Fri 9.01pm BST).

Round of 16: Scotland v Kenya or Tonga (Sat 3.03am BST).

Then Challenge Trophy quarter-final

(Sat 10.04pm BST) if Scotland lose to Kenya or Tonga or Championship Cup quarter-final (Sat 11.32pm BST) if Scotland beat Kenya or Tonga. Followed by semi-finals and final of both Challenge Trophy and Championship Cup on Sunday/Monday. The final of the Championship Cup kicks off at 1.49am BST on Monday.