Ok, way too many S' in that title! A good reminder that just because you can, doesn't mean you should.
With less than a week to go to the opening leg of the UK's elite sevens competition, the Super Sevens Series, we got Samurai Head Coach Scott Wight's thoughts on life, 7s and the SSS.
KD: Scott, having recently retired from top level international 7s, with years on the World Series and 32 caps, how are you finding the transition to not playing at that level? Some players find it a difficult time.
SW: I think for myself it was slightly easier than others may find it, as I consider myself a late bloomer!! I didn’t actually turn pro until the age of 25, having missed out on a lot of age grade representative rugby. After finishing school, I had 8 years working prior to professional rugby which has definitely prepared me for an easier transition back into a normal working life. I would strongly encourage young pro players in rugby to get out and taste as much work experience as possible in their down time. Use your time wisely to get some experience for finding work after rugby. More importantly try to find something that you want to do post rugby as the hardest part can be finding something you enjoy as much as rugby!!
The one thing I do miss and will struggle to get in any job is turning up to work with 20 plus boys that become real close friends. The banter you get is hard to replicate.
KD: Will we see you play again? Melrose?!
SW: I very much doubt it. Since retirement I have played in 2 charity games for MND 5 against the Crusaders and I tell you something..it’s very hard going without training for it. But you just never know, I am only 32 after all!!!
KD: Can you tell us more about School of 7s and your (and Mark’s) aspirations for it? Camps in England maybe?
SW: School of 7s is a passion that Mark Robertson and I share. That started off just as a, come on we will hold a summer camp. I think now that we have both retired we have a real energy to give back to the game we both so dearly love. It’s now a series of real vibrant summer camps in Scotland that see over 300 kids partake each summer. We are holding 4 this summer in Melrose 14/15th July, Glasgow 21 July, Deeside 4/5th August and Heriots 7-9th August for more information, or to sign up, go online www.schoolofsevens.com
Look we would love to grow the brand all over the world but it’s a bit of a juggling act at the moment as we are both in full-
time employment. But you don’t get anywhere if you’re not willing to take risks. We are currently working very hard to keep developing our structures and strategies, so the kids’ experience at the camps are first class.
KD: In England, unless young players, both boys and girls, are lucky enough to go to one of the few schools that plays sevens, access to sevens specialist coaching and sevens competitions is very limited. Taking the Melrose factor out of the equation, how is the situation in Scotland generally?
SW: Exactly the same in Scotland unfortunately. For me there isn’t a lot of exposure to the game of 7s for kids. For me it’s the best way for kids to develop their skill sets. As they get more touches of the ball, more chance to express themselves in an attacking mindset and puts them under pressure to make 1v1 tackles.
KD: There was a bit of kick back at World Rugby recently, covered by the South China Morning Post, where concerns were expressed about World Rugby’s relentless commercialisation of sevens and a perceived dilution of the unique spirit and atmosphere of the Hong Kong 7s. Is this an inevitable price for expansion of the sport?
SW: I think anything which grows the sport even more than it’s already growing is a good thing. On a related but different point, for me the 1-off tournament for men and women to qualify for IRB status is very hard on developing nations. I think it should be over a 4-tournament structure to make it the more consistent as it can be the bounce of a ball or one small mistake that can cost you so dearly, as the Irish men unfortunately found out this year.
KD: You coached Scotland Women’s sevens to European Grand Prix qualification last year. It was also great to see some new European countries developing well in that competition. Did any particular team stand out for you? (apart from Scotland!).
SW: I think the experience of last summer with the Scotland Women was great and speaking to a lot of the other coaches it came through how much the women players are loving 7s, especially in the nations that have just started recently. The biggest competition for us came from Germany and Ukraine. Ourselves and Germany got promoted to the Grand Prix this summer I am really looking forward to keeping an eye on how they progress in the competition.
KD: The Super Sevens Series competition kicks off very soon in the UK with you as Head Coach for Samurai Rugby. We’re excited at the prospect. How is the preparation coming along?
SW: I am really looking forward to the summer tournaments. The one thing that will be a real challenge is getting the team to gel as quickly as possible as we’re only meeting the day prior to Bury. But that’s exciting, we have assembled a strong squad and I am really looking forward to meeting and working with everyone this weekend, let’s hope it’s a good one.
KD: Samurai are the defending SSS champions and won it in 2016, 2015 and 2014 also. Our opposition, such as the British Army, Irish Wolfhounds, England Students, Rambling Jesters, not to mention the Wailers, and Jamaica, are gunning for us, and we are the ones to beat. No pressure Scott! Are there any tactical or technical thoughts you care to share?
SW: It’s a very hard task ahead with the quality of opposition and the standard of the tournament. It’s as close as you will get to international intensity. I think with the possibility of 6 games in a day it’s about rotating and using your squad wisely to try and get the best from everyone. Put a very small bit of structure in place to fall back on, but most importantly it’s about boys going out and expressing themselves and having a real go. People can use this series as a real spring board to get to the next step.
KD: After a very accomplished career in the sport, what does sevens mean to you now?
SW: I think sevens has always played a massive part in my life from a young age, with growing up in Melrose. With the history of the sevens here I have always been very passionate about the sport and I have a real energy to give back to the sport that has given me so many great memories.
KD: We want Samurai Rugby to continue to grow in its contribution to rugby sevens. What’s your take on Samurai?
SW: Samurai for me has been a great asset to the sport in what it does across the world. It gives people opportunities that they would never otherwise have had, like playing overseas and meeting new people in 7s. It really brings all the values of rugby sevens under one roof. You just have to have a look at all the eighty or so elite coaches and players that featured in this year’s Hong Kong & Commonwealth Games tournaments that have worked with Samurai, it really is incredible.
KD: Scott, it's been a pleasure, thanks for taking the time and good luck to you and the lads on Sunday.