While Scotland’s rugby clubs continue to search for a first win in this year’s British and Irish Cup, an Edinburgh-based player who has experienced the same competition south of the border insists the gulf in standards can be bridged.
By common consent, the four Scottish entrants – Edinburgh Accies, Stirling County, Ayr and Gala – have found it hard going in the opening two rounds of fixtures against opposition that is at least part-time professional
However, fresh from helping Heriot’s defeat Premiership leaders Melrose at Goldenacre on Saturday, Mike Maltman drew on memories of turning out for Moseley from 2011 until returning home to take up a sevens contract this summer.
He insisted: “Getting back into the B&I Cup is certainly an aim of Heriot’s and I am keen to assist whenever sevens commitments in the lead-up to the Commonwealth Games permit.
“Of course, the B&I Cup is a definite step up and extremely physical, as I found in the English Championship, but so long as (Scottish) boys are tackling low, it needn’t be a problem as there’s no question that the Heriot’s-Melrose match was a good advertisement for rugby.”
Maltman starred in a Scotland Under-20 back row which also comprised Dave Denton and Stuart McInally. While Denton has moved on to full caps and McInally is being touted as a future Test hooker out of the same Edinburgh stable after agreeing to switch positions, Maltman has taken a different route to the international scene.
Aware of the type of powerful running with which he repeatedly broke through Melrose defences, the Musselburgh-reared Maltman attracted sevens bosses.
Now he feels he is getting the best of both worlds through a policy change that allows sevens stars to be occasionally released to play Premiership rugby, with Heriot’s the beneficiaries in his case.
“My ultimate goal is the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and it helps being able to mix sevens with 15-a-sides at this stage,” he added. “A fortnight ago, I was on Australia’s Gold Coast with Scotland and we have tournaments next month in Dubai and South Africa.
“But, in the meantime, along with other members of the squad, I can experience the extra physicality of the 15-a-side game while using the sharpness we gain from sevens to help our clubs.
“The thinking this year is for boys to be released back to club rugby because it was felt last year we lacked a bit of physicality on the sevens circuit. Getting that physicality for 80 minutes on a weekly basis is a good opportunity.
“Mind you, I have had to make some adjustments. I had to remind myself against Melrose that it was all very well trying to go flat out for 20 minutes, as in sevens, but I also had another hour to play!”
Before travelling to Australia, Maltman helped Heriot’s to wins over Stirling County and Ayr and he appreciates the way he is welcomed into the fold on an ad hoc basis.
“It is always good to come back to club rugby and it’s an honour to play for Heriot’s where there is a really good squad vibe at the moment.
“By all accounts, Hawick wanted it more than Heriot’s the previous weekend. Against Melrose, we seemed to want it more. Now we need to keep that going in a league where any team can beat any other.”