Commonwealth trip for rugby teens

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A group of ten members of Stornoway Rugby Club’s U16 squad recently travelled to Glasgow for a Commonwealth Games inspired trip, which included meeting up with the Scotland and Wales Rugby 7’s teams, a visit to a Commonwealth Games venue, playing in rugby 7’s matches and attending day 1 of the IRB Glasgow 7’s at Scotstoun.

First up was a visit to the Scotland Team’s hotel, where all teams involved in the Glasgow 7’s were based. Team coach, Stephen Gemmell, and captain, Colin Gregor welcomed the boys and the whole squad spent time explaining what it takes to be an International rugby player. Andy Turnbull received plenty attention from the boys, maybe because he has over 50 caps for Scotland and 150 tries or maybe because he was the only one any of them were taller than!

Friday morning began with a visit to the Wales squad’s final training session. Team Manager Dai Jenkins took time to explain more about the increasingly popular IRB 7’s circuit and the large number of 7’s players who have gone on to be successful in the 15-a-side version of the game. Some of these are keen to return to 7’s so they can compete at the Olympics in Rio in 2016 – Warburton, Tipuric, Hook, North, Cuthbert, Roberts, and Powell. Not a bad side! After the training session the boys were paired up with the Wales squad members and had time to chat and hear of their experiences.

In an exchange of gifts both the Scotland and Wales squads were treated to some goodies from home thanks to generous club sponsors. Harris Tweed from Carloway Mill, which included some official Commonwealth Games merchandise, Stornoway Black Pudding from Macleod & Macleod and Wild West Beef Jerky. They were also presented with Stornoway RFC plaques by team captain David ‘3G’ Campbell. Further support from Woody’s Express Parcels, McLaughlin Plant Hire and allowed the purchase of tour polo tops, which were also presented to the squads. Wales is one of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s ‘Support a 2nd Team’, one of the Commonwealth Games legacy programmes, and to commemorate this they were presented with 2 specially embroidered polos and CnES pens.

Local lass Amanda Morrison, who works for Glasgow Life, organised for the boys to be shown round the Emirates Arena, which includes the impressive Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome. These will be used for badminton and cycling at the Commonwealth Games this summer. Ali Rigby got the chance to show off his sprinting prowess in an impromptu race round the indoor running track!

The boys had never played the 7-a-side version of the game so prior to the trip they attended a number of training sessions to learn about the technical skills involved and an appreciation of the fitness preparation required. As part of the trip a series of matches was organised against Belmont House School in Glasgow, the former school of 2 current Glasgow Warriors players – James Eddie and Ed Kalman. As expected the boys initially found the shift from 15’s to 7’s difficult to adapt to, but by the end of the series had worked out the correct strategy – stay out of contact and get the ball to the fast guys! The session ended with a 10-a-side match with the teams mixed up, overall it was agreed to call the series a draw.

On the Saturday the boys attended Day 1 of the Glasgow 7’s providing them with the opportunity to experience 8 hours of high level International competition, and also the entertainment and colour common to the 7’s circuit. Highlight of the day was being invited to form a guard of honour for Scotland’s first match of the day against Australia. Scotland won this match and went on to top their qualifying group by also defeating USA and Spain.

The boys were certainly inspired by their experiences and grateful to the time given up by the Scotland and Wales teams for helping to make the trip so memorable. Team captain David ‘3G’ Campbell summed up the feelings of the boys when thanking the Scotland team for giving up their time, “it’s fantastic how welcoming everyone has been. People we only ever see on the telly and here we are chatting as if we were pals, an amazing experience.”

Dean Drummond, who was one of three boys interviewed for Spòrs Na Seachdain, said “Amazing! Inspiring to get the chance to spend time with professional rugby players, everyone was so good to us.”

Club Coach GG Campbell said: “The boys were wonderful ambassadors for the club and the islands, so proud of them.

“We are indebted to our club sponsors and contributors, without whom the trip wouldn’t have been possible. The commitment of local businesses to Island sport often doesn’t get the recognition it deserves so I’m delighted we were able to put some of them centre stage on this occasion. It was hilarious watching the scramble for the Harris Tweed, Stornoway Black Pudding and Beef Jerky amongst the Scottish team!”