Former Scotland under-20 captain Fraser Brown is today putting behind him more than two years of injury frustration to win selection for the Scotland 7s squad for their vital Rugby World Cup 7s qualifying tournament in Portugal this weekend.
Brown, 23, who returned to club rugby action for Heriot’s in the past season, was a member of the Scotland 7s squad at the FIRA tournaments in Lyon and Moscow earlier this summer, but has now been named in the 12-strong squad for the Algarve competition which begins on Friday. Scotland must finish in the top five in the tournament to secure qualification for the 2013 Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow.
Brown replaces the injured Scott Riddell, while the only other change from the squad that played in the FIRA tournament in Odense, sees Scotland 7s captain Colin Gregor return for Jack Ferguson (Watsonians).
Brown said: “It was a steep learning curve to be involved in the FIRA tournaments but it was a good experience especially after a two-and-a-half year gap from playing through injury.
“At the end of August last year I wasn’t really planning to play any rugby so to be chosen for the club international after three months back playing and then to have the honour of being involved with Scotland 7s at the end of it has been very special.”
Scotland 7s coach Graham Shiel said: “Fraser played in two of the FIRA tournaments on the back of a strong club campaign. He brings physicality and is a very driven individual who is desperately keen to move on with his rugby.”
Shiel noted that some 24 players, primarily from clubs, had been involved during the course of the FIRA campaign and that that had been beneficial for their development.
But he did not dodge the reality of this weekend’s tournament. “This weekend is all about being in the top five. That’s what we set out to achieve and that’s the bottom line on which we’ll be measured. It’s all that matters,” he said.
Scotland are in a pool alongside the Netherlands, Romania and Spain and Shiel reflected: “Every country, without exception, is putting bigger emphasis on sevens. As far as our pool opponents are concerned, we played against the Netherlands in Lyon and it was a close-fought affair (19-17). Romania are physical and very athletic, difficult to break down and, like many teams, work really hard for each other.
“We know Spain well. They are a very good side who play with a lot of fluidity and are difficult to pin down. The last two or three times we have played them, they’ve beaten us.”
Shiel is confident, however, that if Scotland control possession and territory then their game will flourish and that RWC qualification can be secured.
Scotland 7s squad (sponsor RBS) [players full-time with Scotland 7s unless otherwise stated]: Colin Shaw, Michael Maltman, Michael Fedo (Northumbria University), Fraser Brown (Heriot’s), Struan Dewar, Rory Hughes, Colin Gregor captain, Russell Weir, Jim Thompson (London Scottish), Byron McGuigan (Glasgow Warriors), Andrew Turnbull and James Fleming.
The pool timings on the Friday are v Netherlands (5pm); v Romania (7.12pm) and v Spain (9.46pm). Scotland's Saturday match schedule will be determined by Friday's results.
Other countries involved in the qualifying tournament are Portugal, Ukraine, Italy, Lithuania, France, Georgia, Germany and Belgium.