Coombes loving sevens life
With the HSBC World Sevens Series having its next two events in Singapore and Hong Kong postponed, Scotland take comfort in the imposed break in their performance in the Vancouver leg of this season’s circuit, having beaten fourth-ranked France in their final match.
It was a performance that capped three straight day-two victories, the Scots having also defeated Argentina and Kenya en route to a ninth-place finish on the weekend on March 7/8.
Having notched a tournament-high seven tries in the week previous, in Los Angeles, Alec Coombes played his part in Scotland’s promising Canadian showing, with trademark telling runs and a telling score in the aforementioned win over Kenya.
The 24-year-old loved his time in North America, as he explained: “America is a place that I haven’t had a lot of time in before, having Los Angeles as the new leg on the series this year was great.
“LA has a big reputation and it was good to see all it has to offer, and it didn’t disappoint. The training facilities there were such a high standard which helped us to prepare and playing in LA Galaxy’s stadium was the icing on the cake.
“However, Canada Sevens takes top spot in my eyes. It is just run so well; it’s as though the whole city buys into the spirit of the sevens. It’s a tournament that doesn’t take much to get excited for and has one of the best crowds to help get you in the mindset to play.
“And then to top it off it’s in Vancouver which has one of the best back drops to a city as it’s surrounded by the most amazing scenery.”
Talking of stunning visuals, Coombes’ showing in Los Angeles on the last weekend of February was just that. His seven tries totalled more than any player, with all of them coming on day two.
“Yeah, I have to say that weekend was a bit of a whirlwind,” he added. “I don’t think I knew how many I had scored until someone told me after our last game against Kenya; it was a great way to end the weekend, dotting the ball down to score the winner against them.
“I have to say Jamie Farndale was doing a lot of the hard work on the other side of the pitch so I have to give a couple of the tries to him! But It’s always nice to grab a couple of tries over a weekend to boost the confidence and give yourself a bit of momentum moving forward.”
Scotland then went on to enjoy a prolific second day in Vancouver, culminating in that win over France – just hours after the Guinness Six Nations match had finished with similar victors.
“After a tough day one in Vancouver [Scotland finished third in a pool with Australia, USA and Samoa] we had a big evening looking at the opening game we were to have against Argentina the following morning,” Coombes explained.
“I think as a collective we found ourselves on the same page and new what the fix-ups were that we had to make moving forward. We had a lot of confidence in our squad knowing that if we could execute our gameplan we would put ourselves in good stead.
“After beating Argentina [28-17] and finding out we were to face Kenya, I think that brought more confidence as we know Kenya are a team with big individuals but their skill set struggles when they are out under pressure. We had 12 fit bodies raring to go and that helped as well, as we were down to the bare bones the week before.”
The Scots saw off the Kenyan challenge 12-7 and set up a ninth-place decider against France, who lay in fourth place in the tournament standings having enjoyed a stellar campaign.
Coombes added: “It is always a close game between us and the final result comes down to the smallest margins, whether it be one unforced error or a restart that doesn’t go your way. So we prepared ourselves for a long 14 minutes of hard work, knowing that if we were clinical and stuck with each other for the entirety of the game we could come out on top [Scotland won, again 12-7].
“It’s just a shame that Hong Kong and Singapore have been delayed as we were all raring for the next tournaments. But we are in a good place and will take this extended time between tournaments to put ourselves in the best position to approach London and Paris [set for the final two weekends of May].
“I think we made big leaps forward over the last couple of tournaments.”
Having a background in XVs is standard for many sevens players and Coombes is no different having had spells with both London Scottish and being a part of Glasgow Warriors’ training group ahead of the 2019/20 season.
There are some similarities and a good few differences between the two formats but Coombes, on his third season on the sevens circuit, feels more comfortable than ever in his current role.
“I feel as though I have found my place in the team and that my attributes bring something a little different,” he continued. “I do feel as though I have adapted physically to be able to compete in the World Series and I think you have to be more resilient in sevens; more repeatable to be able to survive from the short turnarounds from tournament to tournament.
“Mentally it’s a different challenge. The biggest thing is having the ability to switch on and off between games. As you are playing three games in a day all with around two hours in between each other.
“So being able to switch off and allow yourself to relax from the adrenaline rush you get during a game was something that took a little getting used to. I do think I was more used to the flying that is involved with the sevens as I grew up in Hong Kong and coming over to the UK to see family was something we did quite often.
“However, it’s always a great experience to see countries that I had never been to before, which is something sevens allows you to do much more so than many other sports.”
The HSBC World Sevens series events in Singapore and Hong Kong have been postponed until October 10/11 and 17/18 this year respectively, in light of measures taken due to coronavirus.
Legs in London (May 23/24) and Paris (May 30/31) are still scheduled to go ahead at this juncture.