Borders-linked Lisa Thomson and Ross McCann in GB 7s rugby squad for Tokyo

Get a grip ... Lisa Thomson, right, tackles England's Jess Breach in a Six Nations match last year (photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group / SRU).Get a grip ... Lisa Thomson, right, tackles England's Jess Breach in a Six Nations match last year (photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group / SRU).
Get a grip ... Lisa Thomson, right, tackles England's Jess Breach in a Six Nations match last year (photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group / SRU).
One male and one female rugby player, each with strong Borders connections, have made the final cut for Great Britain’s sevens squad at the Japan 2020 Olympic Games.

Lisa Thomson, from Hawick, and Ross McCann, who had a successful spell with Melrose, are among 24 sevens players confirmed by the British Olympic Association (BOA) for Team GB in Tokyo.

The men’s competition will take place from July 26-28, with the women’s tournament following on July 29-31. The gold medal match is due to happen on ‘Super Saturday’, while all the action will take place at the Tokyo Stadium.

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Thomson, a former captain of the full Scottish international women’s team, has been named as the women’s reserve, while her Scotland team mate and fellow centre, Hannah Smith, is also in the squad.

Ex-Greenyards man McCann is a vastly experienced sevens player for Scotland and, before Covid-19 conditions halted play around the world, he was a regular for the squad in the HSBC international series.

Both he and team mate Alec Coombes have represented Scotland at 16 sevens events, scoring eight and 17 tries respectively.

Made possible by an innovative commercial partnership with the National Lottery, the wider squads have been operating as GB7s based at Loughborough University since March and competed at the International Rugby 7s tournament at St. George’s Park and HPC International 7s in Ireland.

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This weekend, they travel to LA to take part in ‘Quest for Gold Sevens’, their final preparation event ahead of the Games.

Team GB Chef de Mission for the Tokyo Olympic Games, Mark England, said: “Rugby sevens made its memorable debut at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games with both men’s and women’s teams inspiring fans across the globe with the fast pace and excitement that this sport has to offer. The men’s team coming home with a silver medal was a superb achievement.

“There is a huge amount of experience across both of these squads, not only from Rio 2016 but from many years of competitive rugby sevens, which will stand these athletes in great stead heading into Tokyo. We’d like to congratulate everyone on their selection and look forward to seeing sevens in action at the Tokyo Stadium this summer.”

Women’s head coach Scott Forrest said: “Selection was very tough. We’ve had 22 players involved in the programme, who have created a very competitive environment since we started in March. Every one of those players has been so important. And it’s not just about the successful 13 players who have been selected – if we are successful in Tokyo, it’s going to be down to the whole squad, the whole 22 not just those who are going out to perform at the Olympic Games.

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“I’ve seen massive improvements in the team and what we’ve managed to do since March. We’re now excited to see what we can do in 41 days’ time from now.

“For the 13 that are selected, when you look at the squad on paper, it’s very exciting. This squad, for me, has the potential to go and win a gold medal. We have 41 days to go until the first game and understand there are improvements we need to make over that period until we get to our first game. We’ve definitely got the potential and that for me, as a coach, is really exciting.”

Men’s head coach Tony Roques said: “We’re massively grateful to the National Lottery for us to be on this journey together. We’ve become a very tight-knit group and everyone has contributed.

“It was really tough to deliver the news to a lot of people I’ve known for a long time. Ultimately, I feel I’ve done what was right for us to be successful at the Olympic Games.

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“I’d like to congratulate those selected. They’ve worked extremely hard over the last few months and deserve this opportunity. “We’re all very much looking forward to continuing our preparation and then heading to Tokyo.”

Team GB women – Holly Aitchison, Abbie Brown, Abi Burton, Deborah Fleming, Natasha Hunt, Megan Jones, Jazmine Joyce, Alex Matthews, Helena Rowland, Hannah Smith, Celia Quansah, Emma Uren. Reserve: Lisa Thomson.

Team GB men – Dan Bibby, Alec Coombes, Alex Davis, Robbie Fergusson, Harry Glover, Ben Harris, Olly Lindsay-Hague, Ross McCann, Max McFarland, Tom Mitchell, Dan Norton, Ethan Waddleton. Reserve: Tom Bowen.