Scotland Sevens aim to side step danger zone
When Scotland's Sevens coach Stephen Gemmell called up experienced wing John Houston to his side for this weekend's Tokyo Sevens, the phone call might well have gone something like this: "Houston.... we have a problem."
After six rounds of the HSBC Sevens World Series, Scotland lie in 12th place in the standings, only one point above Portugal in the relegation 'danger zone'.
While Scotland's Shield semi-final finish last weekend in Hong Kong added only one point to their season's rolling tally, the Portuguese notched 10 in reaching a third Cup quarter final this Series, which may yet prove crucial.
At the final round of the Series, the Marriott London Sevens in May, the lowest-ranked trio of the current 15 core teams will have to play off for the three available core team places on the 2013/14 HSBC Sevens World Series against Asian champions Hong Kong and the four teams who battled through pre-qualifying last weekend, namely Zimbabwe, Russia, Tonga and Georgia.
It is a scenario that every core team wants to avoid. Currently, Spain, USA and Portugal occupy those bottom three places and, while Scotland are the most vulnerable of the other teams, even the likes of Australia and England are not yet safe.
Scotland line up in Pool B in Tokyo deperately needing to win two of their matches on day one against Kenya, Wales and USA. Houston's call-up in the place of the injured Struan Dewar - and following the birth of his first child - may be the tonic that the Scots need.
“John will be a welcome addition, bringing his experience to the group," said Gemmell.
“He was not available for initial selection due to the impending birth of his first child. However, now that his daughter, Layla, has arrived he is available to travel and has been brought in as the replacement.”
Houston made his Scotland Sevens debut in 2005 and was part of the team at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi. Not only does he add experience, but also power out wide.
“We’re working hard to bring consistency to our Sevens game in what is one of the most open and competitive seasons on the world series circuit that we’ve seen," Houston said.
“Basically any team is capable of beating any other side. I’m looking forward to getting out to Tokyo and joining up with the squad.”
Tokyo Sevens - Tickets still available
Tickets for every category of the Tokyo Sevens, to be held at Prince Chichibu Memorial Ground on 30-31 March, can be purchased online.