We were lucky enough to speak with England 7s’ and #SamuraiFamily Ruaridh McConnochie after he was announced as the RPA’s England 7s Player of the Year.
KD: Ruaridh, congratulations on the RPA award. Are Ollie (Lyndsay-Hague) and Ethan (Waddleton) still talking to you?
RMcC: Thanks a lot, ha ha they’re the ones laughing, it’s the RPA curse as it seems the past 3 winners have been injured at the time of the award!
KD: There is a lot of self-imposed pressure on young players to make it early on the pathway, as the only way to progress. You spent a gap year in New Zealand and didn’t come up through the academy system. You’ve done alright! Any advice to those young guys and girls trying to make it?
RMcC: I’d say from personal experience not getting into an academy isn’t the be all and end all. I think it’s hard for those kids who are told that at 16 years old they should be trying to go for a professional rugby contract when all they should be doing is enjoy being a kid. I feel an awful lot of unnecessary pressure is put on them at a young age when realistically the tip of the professional rugby pyramid is so small, so realistically most of them won’t make it.
Although I’m not saying I’d planned my route to perfection I still have no regrets and got a real-life experience from it all. I feel like I’m definitely more prepared for a post-rugby career now I’ve done what I’ve done in the past.
KD: Bath fans are really looking forward to seeing you at the Rec. What are your thoughts on how you are going to transfer all those things you excel at in 7s to the 15s game? Also, is it going to be bulking season all summer for you?!
RMcC: I think the way I play really suits going back into 15s and I’m looking forward to the challenge. 7s is great for putting your skills under pressure and under immense fatigue which is really transferable. Haha maybe a few kilos but not too much, it’s hard to put on any in the 7s as we run so much in training!
KD: The next World Series leg is in London. Aside from the possibility of Go Fiji Go drowning out Swing Low, does playing at Twickenham confer a genuine home advantage do you think?
RMcC: I think so, it’s hard for debutants not to get caught up in the whole experience but we all just urge each other to embrace the crowd and the opportunity to play at your home ground. We came close last year and loved the weekend, so hoping to go one further this year.
KD: Maybe the analysts tell you otherwise, but you just don’t seem to have had a bad game this year. How do you think your World Series is going?
RMcC: Personally, I’ve been pretty happy with the way I’ve played and feel I’m still improving. As a team it hasn’t been the best of seasons and things just weren’t clicking for a while however well we thought we were training/playing. However, we hope that the two bronze’s in the Commonwealths and Singapore 7s gives us the confidence we needed, and can push forward for better results at the close of the season, starting with Twickenham.
KD: People might be forgiven for assuming that winning Silver in the 2016 Olympics is the highlight of your 7s career but maybe there are other equally memorable & special moments for you, for different reasons?
RMcC: Rio was very special and a real dream come true, but I guess the uniqueness of it holds it in a different place compared to my memories with England. My first tournament win with England in Cape Town was incredible and was made better by receiving the player of final award. It was a long time coming for a very talented team and was followed by arguably the most successful season in England 7s history.
KD: I think initially you were on the reserve list for Rio, can you remember how you found out you were going to be playing? And probably mixed feelings because of Alex’s injury?
RMcC: Me and Luke Treharne were both named as travelling reserves which I was so proud of as I’d never have expected to be in that place considering 12 months before that I was finishing up at Uni. To get the call up was an odd one, being a mate of AJ, and knowing what he’d been through the past couple of years, it was really tough for me to accept the place in the 12 and be happy for it. I was later told it was a thing called survivor’s guilt where I just felt like I didn’t deserve my place there. However, the boys were really good at getting straight into the mix of it all and as soon as I stepped foot in the village I was fully embracing the opportunity.
KD: The sudden-death format of the Sevens World Cup in July is interesting. Do you think it will change teams’ approach to the competition? Or do teams normally go flat out to win every game, even in pool stages?
RMcC: I think with how competitive the World Series is nowadays you’ve got to be on top of your game against every team, Spain are the newcomers this year so to the untrained eye would be the “whipping boys” but we know how talented they are and have shown it by beating teams like Australia and making Cup quarter finals. It’ll still be a seriously good weekend but to be honest it doesn’t change much in terms of how we prep for each team.
KD: Not everyone will know you played for Samurai Rugby at the Safari 7s in Kenya, or about our mission to develop players and promote 7s. Good memories?
RMcC: It was a weird old trip! I actually caught food poisoning earlier in the week so missed the pool games but snuck myself into the team on knock-out day. Great memories with that bunch of boys and was it awesome to go on and beat a World Series side (Argentina) in the final.
You just have to look at the World Series and see how many players have come through the Samurai talent ID pathway. Now to see so many different Samurai sides entering competitions is great as it means more opportunities for youngsters to showcase their talents on an elite circuit. Annoyingly, a few injuries denied me of some opportunities to represent Samurai Rugby but I loved it when I was involved.
KD: (You probably need to check your Bath contract!) Any possibility of a guest coaching appearance for Samurai in the future?
RMcC: I’m pretty passionate about coaching and try to do as much for experience in my free time, so definitely won’t be ruling out an appearance on the touch-line!