Scotland's most successful sevens coach, Stephen Gemmell, today challenged his players to reach their tenth consecutive Cup quarter-final ahead of the fifth leg of the IRB Sevens World Series, Hong Kong.
Gemmell has taken the Scotland 7s team to nine Cup quarter-finals in a row since taking the reins at the start of season 2006/07 and is looking for big performances from his squad, which is still to be selected, in order to guarantee the chance of being amongst the top teams when they return to Scotland for the final event in the Series at Murrayfield on 31 May and 1 June.
"The next two legs of the Series have huge importance for us as a sevens team and for our tournament in Edinburgh," he said. _x001C_If we want to be playing in the Cup competition on day two of our own tournament then we need to do well in Hong Kong and Adelaide._x001D_
The IRB (International Rugby Board) released the draw for the Pool stages of the Hong Kong tournament last night which Gemmell is very much looking forward to.
Hong Kong is one of those tournaments in the IRB Sevens World Series that is held in very high regard.
Scotland is the birthplace of rugby sevens so the Edinburgh leg, which takes place on 31 May on 1 June this year, is very special, but Hong Kong has been one of the biggest sevens tournament over a number of years having hosted the Rugby World Cup Sevens on a few occasions. It's one of the tournaments that helped put sevens on the rugby map._x001D_
The format of the Hong Kong tournament differs slightly to the other events on the World Series as the Pool stages are split over two days instead of one and 24 teams take part as opposed to the usual 16, and Gemmell feels that this could work in his sides favour.
It works well for the players over three days. We've got a favourable draw this year, but that's testament to the hard work put in by the players over the first four legs of the tournament._x001D_
On the draw itself, Gemmell commented: _x001C_Kenya were semi-finalists in San Diego and we've got quite a bit of experience playing against them. We drew with them in London last year and lost narrowly in Edinburgh and George, so we know both sides are a very close match.
Portugal however were a core team last year and dropped out this year. They'll certainly use Hong Kong as preparation for the World Cup Sevens in July.
We aren't so familiar with China, but we do know that they pose a serious threat given that they beat Canada last year and Canada are one of the core teams. They play Kenya on the Friday night so it'll be a good opportunity to do a bit of last minute homework on them before we meet the following day._x001D_
The core of the Scotland 7s squad is made up of players from Scottish Rugby's National Academy, with fulltime professional players supplementing the squad when required.
As National Academy Manager in addition to his responsibility as Scotland 7s coach, Gemmell is impressed with how his young charges are shaping up on the world stage.
The average age of our squad was 20-years-old when we went to Dubai and George and that age increased to 21-years-old in Wellington and San Diego so it's testament to the work being done in the Academy both at Senior and Junior levels._x001D_
Stephen Gemmell was at Greaves Sports this morning at the announcement of a new sponsorship deal for the National Academy. The announcement saw Asics become the official footwear supplier to Scotland's brightest young rugby talents.
Scotland 7s' Pool E fixtures on day one and day two of the IRB Hong Kong Sevens:
Day 1 - Scotland 7s v Portugal, kick-off 7:32pm
Day 2 - Scotland 7s v China, kick-off 10:52am
Day 3 - Kenya v Scotland, kick-off 5:28pm
All times are local time.
RB Sevens World Series
Dubai (UAE), 30 November-2 December
George (South Africa), 7-8 December
Wellington (New Zealand), 1-2 February
San Diego (USA), 9-10 February
Hong Kong (China), 29-30 March
Adelaide (Australia), 5-6 April
London (England), 24-25 May
Edinburgh (Scotland), 31 May-1 June