Last weekend, Scotland’s Rugby Sevens side retained their title at Twickenham with a 12-7 victory over hosts and rivals England. It was a remarkable achievement from the side, who also claimed the scalp of New Zealand in the quarter-finals on their way to victory in the last event of the series.
Perth was represented in the Scotland side – in the shape of local lad James Fleming. Fleming hails from our wee city and started out his career as a youngster with the Perthshire Rugby set-up. Fast forward a few years and now he’s lining up for his country in the shortened variant of the game, and playing a huge part in the national side’s success.
James still remembers the early days when he first fell in love with the game and he believes that the local set-up at Perthshire Rugby on the North Inch has played a big part in getting him to where he is today.
“I remember I got caught up in the buzz around the time of the 1995 World Cup, so my parents took me down to an open day at Perthshire Rugby Club. We played in a few mini games alongside some of the senior players and I was awestruck. I remember Rob Wainwright, the Scotland captain at the time, was there too and I well and truly caught the bug after that!
“The club was massive for my development as a player. The coaches were so supportive and made the whole thing fun and we actually had quite a successful wee team. I am actually still friends with lots of my team mates from the younger days and I still keep up with the coaches too.
“It’s a fantastic club and I can genuinely say my love for the game came from the efforts of the mini section at Perthshire.”
James progressed through the ranks at Perthshire, eventually turning out for the first-team. He continued to impress, and after a fantastic season he was named ‘Premiership 3 Player of the Year’ which attracted the attention of Premiership club Dundee. It was a move that would open doors for the lightning quick full back.
“I took the step to join Dundee and I really enjoyed it. I had a good first season and I gained some exposure higher up the game. From there, I was invited to train with the Glasgow Warriors – one of only two professional clubs in Scotland.
“I was gaining a reputation for my speed, and this tends to lend itself to the game of sevens. I completed a pre-season with the Warriors and then made my international debut in the Dubai Sevens in 2010.”
Like James himself, things were moving quickly and he became a regular feature in the Scotland Sevens set-up. He’s surpassed the milestone of 100 tries, something he admits he didn’t think he would ever be in a position to do. However, he is very keen to stress that his team mates have played a huge part in his scoring success.
“I always remember back to what I was told when I played at Perthshire – the team scores the tries. There used to be punishments if you owned up to actually scoring a try all by yourself! So I am really thankful to my team mates who have put me in space to allow me to get over the line to score!”
It’s the realisation of a dream for James to be playing the sport he loves for a living, and he loves representing his country and travelling the world on the sevens circuit. He does confess though, that it isn’t always as glamorous as it sounds.
“The travelling is something that I have loved but it isn’t always as good as it may seem! It’s not like we’re flying business or first-class everywhere – we’re in economy and we have to battle jet lag when we go to the likes of New Zealand which can be tough.
“I have seen some amazing parts of the world though, so I am so grateful to have had this amazing opportunity.
“I’m massively privileged to be able to play rugby as a job. I remember back when I was a kid I used to pretend to be a Scotland player in my back garden so it literally is a dream come true to represent my country. It’s something I certainly don’t take for granted and I am really proud to be able to do it.”
Rugby Sevens is now an Olympic sport, with home nations Scotland, England and Wales combining to represent Great Britain. However, James is not looking that far ahead and is focused on other challenges in the short-term.
“2018 sees the Commonwealth Games return and after missing the last one, it’s my main focus next year. We also have a World Cup in San Francisco and we’ll be back on to the World Series too, so my attention is firmly fixed on performances for Scotland and I’ll just see where that takes me.”
After retaining the London Sevens title last weekend, Scotland ended the World Series on a high and there’s absolutely no doubt that team are progressing. In the past two years, Scotland have reached three finals – something that they hadn’t managed to achieve in the twenty year history of the sevens prior to that.
The side also mounted a second half comeback against the All Blacks of New Zealand in the quarter-finals, before overcoming the United States and England in the next two matches to clinch the title. James believes that the win will only help to progress the national side in the next year.
“It was huge for us. We won it the previous year for the first time ever and it was special. There wasn’t really any expectations placed on us then, so it surprised a lot of people. This time around, we were defending our crown and that comes with added pressure.
So to go back down to Twickenham and beat England in the final was even more special and it proves how far we have come as a squad.”
James still speaks very highly of his development through Perthshire Rugby, and credits the set-up at the North Inch for helping to make him the player he is today. Having experienced the youth ranks himself, he has some helpful advice for any aspiring, young players in Perth.
“The biggest thing for me – and I’m sure my team mates would agree – is to enjoy yourself. That’s crucial and if you are enjoying yourself it’s the perfect starting point for success.
“As a youngster I played lots of sport and I think that also benefitted me. Every sport can learn from each other and you can pick up loads of different skills by playing as many of them as possible. Play sport and try them all until you find something you love then stick to it.
“Maybe you’ll make it, may you won’t but as long as you have fun you’ll make some friends for life along the way!”
Live Active Leisure has launched a new campaign encouraging the residents of Perth and Kinross to ‘Travel the World with LAL’.
May 27th Wednesday 2020
Chrystal Matthan is the 24 year old netball player from Perth who was recently selected for the Scottish Thistles Long Squad!
February 27th Thursday 2020
Foundation trustee Charlie Gallagher recently handed over a £2000 cheque to Academy head of youth development Alistair Stevenson.
January 31st Friday 2020