GAVIN Hastings has joined the Scottish Rugby Union as a'commercial manager' as part of a revamp to the game of sevens.
Scotland will compete in the full IRB World Sevens Series at leastfor the next two seasons, with Rob Moffat, the former Glasgow andBorders assistant coach, and sevens chief for the past three years,becoming the first full-time national sevens coach.
He will be assisted by part-time manager and physio PeterGallagher and Stevie Mutch, with former Scotland and Lions full-backHastings operating on a commission basis with a wide remit to attractsponsorship and other commercial support for the sevens squad. TheIRB's investment in travel and accommodation for competing nations,and help from other sources, such as the Commonwealth Games Councilfor Scotland - as sevens features in the Games - ensures that thismajor push by the SRU into the abbreviated form of rugby will notmean a significant change in Murrayfield funding, but Hastings haspledged to come up with extra finance through the sevens exploits.
He admitted: 'It is nice to be involved with the game in anofficial capacity because I've always wanted to be; I've always beenenthusiastic about helping Scottish rugby.
'I couldn't say they came knocking on my door, exactly, but frombeing in Hong Kong and at other events around the world I could seethe potential for support for Scotland. The sevens team didbrilliantly out there this year and it's a positive aspect of ourgame that we have to build on and maximise.'
With the A matches still sidelined, Ian McGeechan believes thesevens arena could provide a valuable testing ground for up-and-coming internationals. He said: 'This gives us a world-classcompetitive level - a concentrated run of eight tournaments that says'you have to deliver' - and I feel that's what we've been missing inthe past.
'Out of this you get more players who grow up quicker, and that'sbeen a weakness for us. They get further down the line before theserious questions, mental, physical and skill-wise, are being asked.We have a lot of talented players, but what we need to do is have astructure where the only limit to the player's ambition is himself,and the structure won't let him down. We haven't had that.'
McGeechan insisted that this new support for sevens followed hisown philosophy, stressing that Scotland qualified for the World Cup,to be held in Hong Kong next March, 'a task that had been beyond usfour years previously'. It remains a fact, however, that Scotland'sfailure to qualify for the last World Cup came when he was nationalcoach and at a time when neither he nor Jim Telfer, the SRU directorof rugby, put sevens development high on the agenda.
There was also a pledge from Moffat, in his wider role as 'sevensprogramme manager', to develop club and youth sevens, and a youngdevelopment team will compete at Selkirk Sevens this weekend to beginpreparations for the Commonwealth Youth Games in Australia inDecember.
Meanwhile, Steve Bates, the new Borders coach, has left leadingplayers Chris Cusiter and Bruce Douglas out of his team to play atLeeds tonight to help national coach Matt Williams.
Williams has put many of the Test squad on new strength andconditioning programmes in an effort to build them up, and also askedthat they be released from pre-season games to ensure they can stickwithin the SRU's new 30-game limit for top players.
Bates said: 'We're keen to support the Scotland effort. [Leavingplayers out] is part of the very positive attitude we are trying totake towards Scotland's international preparations.
'We're also talking to several players and might be able to boostthe size of our squad. We could suffer severely during the autumninternationals but the Union is very supportive of us and has assuredus that there will be funds to get us through.'
IRB World Sevens Series: Dubai (2/3 December), George, SouthAfrica (10/11 December), Wellington (4/5 February), Los Angeles (12/13 February), Hong Kong (World Cup 18-20 March), Singapore (mid-April), Bordeaux and London (dates to be confirmed).
Scotland Sevens squad: J Beattie (GHA and Glasgow), P Boston(unattached), K Brown (Borders/Scottish Institute of Sport), ATurnbull, J Weston (both Borders), D Burns, N Cochrane, A Nash(Watsonians), D Callam (Edinburgh/SIS), O Brown, M Clapperton, RCouper (all Boroughmuir), S Duffy (Glasgow Hawks/Glasgow), I Fairley(Kelso), D Gray (Gala), C Gregor (Watsonians/Glasgow), C Keenan(unattached), C Laidlaw (Jed-Forest), M Lee (Army), A MacDonald(Heriot's/Edinburgh), C MacRae (Borders/SIS), R Reid (Golden Lions),K Sinclair (Glasgow Hawks), A Strokosch (Edinburgh/SIS).
Scotland Development squad (to play at Selkirk Sevens, Sunday, 29August): S Crombie (Kirkcaldy), C Dunlop (Durham University), J Hood(Stewart's-Melville FP), A Hutt (Dunfermline), T Jericevich (AberdeenGSFP), C Johnston (Merchiston Castle School), J King (Berwick andBorders) capt, D McCall (Stewart's-Melville College), R Rennie(Stewart's-Melville FP), G Ryan (Ellon).
Borders (v Leeds at Headingley, 8pm): G Morton; N Walker, CMacRae, J Pattison, A Turnbull; C Hore, B McKerchar; P Thomson, SScott, G Cross, C Stewart, S MacLeod, S Gray, M Blair, W McEntee.