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Page last updated at 13:08 GMT, Thursday, 27 November 2008

Roddy Grant column

Scotland captain Roddy Grant

By Roddy Grant
Scotland Sevens captain

Scotland is the birthplace of the sevens version of rugby union, first played in Melrose in 1883.

It has now grown into a worldwide sport in its own right, with the top nations competing in the IRB Sevens World Series.

But, according to Roddy Grant, Scotland's new team captain, the nation that gave the game to the world must improve on their 10th-place finish in last season's tournament.

The team is preparing to kick off this year's series in Dubai on Friday and the West of Scotland flanker will be sharing his thoughts ahead of each stage of the circuit.

I will captain my country for the first time on Friday, when we play South Africa, but it will be a bitter-sweet moment.

The Scots were left dejected in last season's Plate final at Murrayfield
Scotland lost to South Africa in the final of the Plate competition last season

It's come to me through Scott Forrest being ruled out through injury.

He's a good friend and I was devastated when I heard that he'd dislocated and broken his ankle.

But I was also extremely humbled to be asked by coach Stevie Gemmell to take over the role.

It's a huge honour, so I jumped at the chance and I just hope that my reign is successful.

In the past few years, we've reached the quarter-finals in tournaments a number of times.

We're always looking to raise the bar and this year we've put an emphasis on reaching that elusive semi-final - starting in Dubai.

The beauty about going away with a squad of 15 people over a six-month period is that you have the chance to get to know everyone really well.

A few of the guys have done the circuit before and have a bit of experience - and the new guys coming in are really enthusiastic.

There's a good mix of the two and now everyone's looking forward to the first game.

And it's not just your own team-mates you get to know.

All the teams from the different nations are staying in the same hotel and we see them at mealtimes and around the pool - so it's very social.

England and New Zealand take to the field for last season's final at Murrayfield
England lost to New Zealand in the main final at Murrayfield last season

When we arrived at the hotel, we also spotted none other than Tony Blair, who is staying here too. We were very impressed!

As for the tournament, we could scarcely have a tougher start on Friday morning.

Up first in Pool B are South Africa and they always produce results in this tournament.

But we beat them at Murrayfield two years ago, so there's a real belief that we can do it again.

We'll have a few hours rest before meeting Kenya, who although not well-known in the 15s game have turned over some big names on the sevens circuit.

Completing the pool at the end of the day is the Arabian Gulf, who will benefit from home advantage with the crowd behind them.

I can't wait to get going and we've already had a taste of the superb arena we'll be playing in.

We played a practice game against France the other day in the new purpose-built stadium called The Sevens.

It looks amazing and I'm sure, when the crowd fill it, the atmosphere will be something pretty special.

Roddy Grant scores a try against Argentina
Grant knows what it is like to score in the IRB Sevens World Series

Of course, we're here to play rugby and go as far as we can in the tournament.

And we're desperate to get to that first semi-final.

But we will get some time off to experience the city and, as important as it is to concentrate on the training, it's also important to switch off and forget about it.

That's one of the great thing about the sevens - you get to visit all these places you normally wouldn't.

In sevens, anyone can beat anyone, but we know our plans for each game and we just have to execute them well.

In six months' times we'll be running out in the final series tournament at Murrayfield.

That will be an extra special occasion and hopefully, by the time that comes around, we'll already have improved on last season.

But there's a lot of rugby to be played and a lot of miles to be travelled before then.

Roddy Grant was speaking to BBC Scotland's Joanne McKillop.

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see also
Worcester trio in England squad
28 Oct 08 |  Rugby Union
New Zealand in IRB seventh heaven
01 Jun 08 |  Scottish

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