The University of St Andrews’ first Scottish Universities Championship win for 17 years back in 2014 was the start of a strong few years for the club. Last season saw promotion to the Northern 1B BUCS League, marking a real step up in opposition for the men’s team. Half of last season’s first XV graduated last summer which added to the inevitable challenge the club would face stepping up to play the likes of Manchester, Worcester, Birmingham, Durham and Loughborough.
Whilst they came last in their division, it was a good season in terms of performances and blooding in new talent who will help the University in the coming years. Now that that season has come to an end, all eyes move towards the field of Sevens Rugby and its unique brand of entertainment. Teams are reduced from their typical 15 players to 7 and the halves are 7 minutes each way as opposed to the usual 40, meaning the action is much faster paced and scintillating play is guaranteed. It is somewhat fitting that in the year that Sevens makes its longawaited Olympic debut, the University has stepped up the competition’s standards.
This set-up is the same as at school for British students and is one of three competitions that the St Andrews Club expects to enter this season in addition to the Howe of Fife 7s and the Perthshire 7s, both of which take place in May. However the main event in the Sevens circuit for the University is their own event, widely regarded as one of the best tournaments in Scotland and is the largest one run by students in the UK. The teams are all made up of current students of this University, of other UK universities and alumni teams. The tournament has a rich history, going all the way back to 1970. When it first began it used a round robin format as opposed to the typical knockout format used by other Universities or clubs. This gave each team more games during the tournament and made it a day worth enjoying and this has since caught on and is now the system in operation for World Rugby on the Sevens tour and will be the way the game is played this year in its Olympic debut Brazil. The tournament’s first ever final was between Dunfermline and Madras FP, with the former running out 11-8 winners and since them teams have come from the rest of the UK to compete, including University outfits from Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Oxford, Cambridge and Newcastle.
The University itself provides several teams but they are year group divided teams, with players from the Rugby Club organising themselves into first, second, third, fourth and postgraduate teams. Over the years several notable alumni have taken part in the competition, including Prince William, who was part of the Rat Pack team that competed for 10 years in the tournament. It is somewhat fitting that in the year that Sevens makes its long-awaite Olympic debut, the University has stepped up the competition’s standards.
This year has seen a format change in the tournament in order to make it more appealing and competitive. In previous years there have been 32 men’s teams and 8 women’s teams and in the men’s competition in particular there has been a huge discrepancy between the top sides and the teams made up of players who do not usually play much rugby. This year will be different, with the men’s tournament restructured into two competitions; the regular and the performance. The regular tournament has 24 sides and was open to entry from all groups of all abilities, whilst the performance tournament was by invitation only and was for the elite teams that would usually take part.
The aim, according to Director of Rugby David Ross, was to eliminate this discrepancy and make both tournaments more competitive than the old one was. By concentrating the best teams together you ensure high quality all round and then the other tournament is more fun and entertaining as there are not several large beatings as there were in previous years. In changing direction the University have attracted several new Universities to the competition and look to have got a really strong lineup. Durham, Manchester and Bishop Burton, three of the finest University 15-a-side teams, are all coming along, whilst Howe of Fife, who boast one of the strongest club 7s teams in Scotland are also in the line-up. The full line up for the Men’s Regular and Performance Tournaments can be found at the end of the article.
The tournament itself is on April 16th, and is a full day of rugby for all to enjoy. The University have been very supportive of the Rugby Club for the tournament, helping turn the back pitches behind the Sports Centre, usually used for Lacrosse and Shinty, into temporary Rugby pitches for the day meaning that they will have 6 pitches in use to ensure continual action throughout the day. It begins at 9am, which may well be an early start for many, but will last throughout the day and provides a nice day for everyone to enjoy. Free to attend, the event will also have live music during the day, with refreshment also available, in the form of a BBQ, Ice Cream and inevitably Alcohol!
The main performance final is expected to take place at around 3:30pm in the afternoon and that will later be followed by the other two finals, with the whole thing expected to be done by 6pm. Obviously attendance will be affected by weather, but fingers crossed the weather will be good and a great day can be had by all! The event itself will be followed by the somewhat legendary Sevens After-Party at Kinkell Byre, with a capacity for up to 1,500. Here are the full entry lists for the men ‘s competitons on April 16th.
Regular tournament: Los Jageruares, Victorious Secret, Drillers Anonymous, Dambusters RFC, Kite Runners, Cupid Stunts, Edinburgh Red Kites, Dundee University RFC, Old Fettesians, Always Tampon Warriors, Hutcheson’s Grammar School Old Boys, The Alpha Nails, The Blue Balls, Napier University RFC, The Boddington Wanderers, Aberfeldy RFC, Bedrock Warriors, The Tech, Stew Mel 2014, Here for Beer, Scotch Pie and Beans, The Boosh Leekers, University of Manchester RFC, Kicking 3s and Hitting Knees.
Performance Tournament: Durham University RFC, Bishop Burton College RFC, Dundee High School FPRFC, Steven Sims’ Cavaliers, Black Watch 3 Scots, Minerva Builders, Howe of Fife RFC, The Soul Men.