Scott Riddell hopes Games can put him on the road to Rio

The Scotland Rugby 7s squad from left: Coach John Manson, James Eddie, Sean Lamont, Tommy Seymour, Colin Shaw, Jamie Johnson, Head Coach Stephen Gemmell, Colin Gregor, Lee Jones, Mark Bennett, Scott Riddell, Scott Wight, Richie Vernon and Coach Graham Shiel.
The Scotland Rugby 7s squad from left: Coach John Manson, James Eddie, Sean Lamont, Tommy Seymour, Colin Shaw, Jamie Johnson, Head Coach Stephen Gemmell, Colin Gregor, Lee Jones, Mark Bennett, Scott Riddell, Scott Wight, Richie Vernon and Coach Graham Shiel.
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Scotland rugby sevens star Scott Riddell has raised the stakes even before a ball has been passed in this summer’s Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

Noting how the abbreviated game is beginning to capture imaginations worldwide, the Edinburgh-based 28-year-old allowed himself a glance beyond the tournament for which he has just been chosen to take part in at Ibrox Stadium on July 26-27.

He revealed: “This is me coming to the end of a two-year contract having given up a job as a rugby development officer at Midlothian Council to commit to sevens. But I’m definitely not finished with rugby yet and looking to carry on sevens. Maybe I could even push for the Olympics.”

That was a reference to how rugby has earned a place in the Rio Games in 2016 when a Great Britain – or possibly Scottish – team will participate.

However, stressing his priority, former Stew Mel flanker Riddell said: “The Commonwealth Games became a shorter term aim once I had participated in Delhi four years ago after getting a late call up and I’m obviously looking to do well.

“But I still feel I can have a lot of rugby still to play and as more funding becomes available sevens can be more of a lifestyle choice.

“The Games are massively important, too, for the sport in terms of providing recognition that the circuit is anything but a jolly, and tough on the body with everything highly intensive and very physical.”

Matches are rarely more physical than when Scotland compete against New Zealand who have just taken the IRB grand prix title and who share a section with the hosts at Ibrox along with Barbados and Canada.

Scotland have never beaten the Kiwis and Riddell is hoping it will be fifth time lucky so far as he is concerned.

“I’ve faced New Zealand four times with Scotland and the closest we have come was when losing 7-14 in South Africa a couple of years ago.

“You are under such pressure and the smallest error will see them score off it.

“They have a very high threshold for being able to defend for long periods without being broken down.

“New Zealand will force errors and score off them but we have a good side for the Games and are delighted to be getting a crack at them.”

Riddell is one of four players in the squad who represented Scotland in Delhi, along with Lee Jones, Colin Shaw and Colin Gregor.

And his journey started as a youngster at Stewart’s Melville College where he was part of a team that went unbeaten in all games through to the final of the 2003 Brewin Dolphin Scottish Schools Cup.

“Unfortunately we ran up against a team who had excellent players including John Barclay, later capped by Scotland, Graham Wilson of Heriot’s and Ed Butcher, son of the Hibs manager.”

From there Riddell went to Northumbria University and on to the Newcastle Falcons academy.

“I got chosen for the Falcons side which contested Middlesex Sevens at Twickenham and we won.

“It was there I found I had a skill-set, fitness and motivation to really push myself that worked well in sevens and that was the route I wanted to go down.

“Along came a sevens contract with Scotland two years ago and up until then playing full-time had been a bit of a pipe dream.”

It is, however, anything but a pipe dream for the lad from a rugby family whose dad represented Dalkeith and whose late grandfather turned out for Melrose.

“When I was younger I turned out for Edinburgh Under-18s but never really made a breakthrough.

“So I’m fortunate sevens came along although I still love the fuller version to the extent that getting away from sevens training means going down to Inverleith on a Sunday morning to coach the Stew Mel Lions youngsters.”

The ultimate for Riddell would be to take along a Commonwealth Games medal to show off to the kids when they reconvene next season and it is surely a measure of the depth of talent available to Scotland that some proven experts such as Mike Maltman and Andy Turnbull have been unable to find a place in coach Stevie Gemmell’s squad.

But the coach is not afraid to make tough calls. “The one thing I’d pride myself on is honesty and I’ve had to have tough conversations. I’ve made selections based on what I think is right and to give us the best opportunity to medal,” said coach Gemmell at Ibrox.