Melrose 7s to Salute Armed Forces
Melrose are to turn their annual sevens tournament into a celebration of the Armed Forces next year in tribute to the efforts of Scottish soldiers around the world.
The Greenyards was the final destination on a new event that helped to launch the 'Hearts and Heroes' charity in 2009 with a trek across the Southern Upland Way.
The proceeds were split between the 'Hearts and Balls' charity for injured rugby players and Poppy Scotland, the former Earl Haig Fund that helps injured servicemen and women and organisers are already hoping to double the number of competitors to over 1,000 in 2010.
The Melrose club have now taken that a stage further. After talks with army representatives in Scotland, they have reached agreement that the 2010 event will have a strong Forces theme. The British Army sevens team, which competes in the Middlesex Sevens at Twickenham and features a host of Fijians based in Edinburgh, will be a guest side, along with Cambridge University and the Hamilton club from Cape Town in South Africa, which continues the Borders club's links with the Republic alongside the returning 2009 winners, Johannesburg University.
Launching 2010 ticket sales on www.melrose7s.com, Mike Dalgetty, Melrose RFC President, said: "There has obviously been a lot of media attention given to what is going on in Afghanistan and a realisation for more and more people I think of just how much these soldiers are putting on the line in the name of serving this country.
"We have quite a lot of club members and supporters with links with serving soldiers, people who have suffered with past battles and current ones, and we have strong links with Scottish regiments going back over many years. General Sir Richard Dannatt, who retired as head of the British Army this year, was a visitor at the 125th Melrose Sevens. He is a big rugby man and expressed an interest in returning to the tournament, and I know from the discussions we have had that rugby is a popular sport with a lot of servicemen and women. So, we felt if there was something we could do to provide assistance and show support from a Scottish rugby perspective then we should."
The club is working on various fund-raisers to swell the pot donated to the Army for injured personnel, and a military band and display will form a key part of the Greenyards tournament to be held on Saturday, 10 April, 2010.
The tournament will also stage its annual coaching clinic for children from across Scotland in the morning, headed by Jim Telfer, the former Scotland and British and Irish Lions captain and coach, and the veterans tournament, won last year by a familiar side of former Borders stars.
Dalgetty added: "The rugby remains the attraction and, while we're having four guests sides from South Africa, Italy and the Army, which will hopefully provide an added attraction in 2010, we felt rather than having another two guests we would extend invitations this year to more Premiership Division Two clubs in Scotland outwith the Borders clubs.
"It is a balance. Our sponsors like to see visiting teams and the tournament has developed a reputation as an international event, but we take seriously the place Melrose Sevens occupies in world rugby and the commitment to helping develop sevens, particularly in Scotland.
"Sevens is as strong a tool in developing the skills of players now as it ever was, and that remains a key reason for holding the tournament."
By David Ferguson of The Scotsman