This weekend will see thousands of rugby players and fans descend on the Greenyards for the 141st playing of the Melrose Sevens.  

Monaco Impi’s will return to defend the title they won last year, while former Melrose man Scott Wight is leading a South of Scotland Barbarians team in Saturday’s 1883 Centenary Cup tournament.  

The man tasked with organising the event is Phil Morris, the club’s commercial and sevens director and the founder of sportswear brand Kukri.  

Scotland Rugby News:

Since its return following the Covid pandemic, the tournament has evolved from its traditional all-day Saturday offering to a weekend full of events. Those kicked off on Thursday night when current sevens flyer Ross McCann, ex-Scotland back-row Carl Hogg and Gala’s Arthur Brown were inducted in the Melrose Sevens Hall of Fame.  

Morris, who has been involved at Melrose since 2019, is looking forward to this year’s tournament.  

He said: “We’ve got some strong teams coming, including in the women’s tournament, which has filled out now. It should be a good event.”  

Morris explained the reasons behind adding to the traditional men’s tournament with a qualifier, which takes place on Friday, and a women’s tournament.  

READ MORE: Draws announced as preparations step up for Melrose Sevens

“The event has to evolve to remain relevant,” he said.  

“Rugby in Scotland is undergoing quite a lot of change and we’re navigating our place within that but at the same time we’re very fortunate to have the 3G pitch.  

“The number of teams we’re turning away who want to come and play in the men’s tournament is quite significant.” 

Gone – for now at least – are the days where professional sides send squads full of up-and-coming stars, like Saracens did in 2012 as a squad including future Scotland caps Ali Price and Duncan Taylor claimed the title; or like 2014 when a Glasgow Warriors squad included USA flyer Carlin Isles, plus the likes of Lee Jones and Mark Bennett.  

Scotland Rugby News:

Other tournaments have adopted a multi-tier event to allow ‘social’ sides to play alongside those with more competitive aspirations. Morris said that will not be the case at Melrose.  

“I can’t ever seeing us having a multi-tier event,” he added. 

“I think there is an argument that the game has a professional and a more community element so it might at some point make sense to separate those two. We did look at that back in 2020 but that tournament was cancelled because of Covid.  

“Since then, we’ve not been quite sure where Super Series was going to end up, so after this, I think we’ll have a review.  

“We’re not a social event. We’re looking for high-quality rugby at the home of sevens.” 

In years gone by, Melrose Sevens enjoyed protected status on the Scottish rugby calendar. That is not the case any more - Saturday’s main tournament will compete a sold out Scotland Women international, while a packed calendar means there’s plenty for fans to watch from home.  

READ MORE: Scotland Women sell-out reward for hard work, says Chloe Rollie

That is just a sign of the times, Morris said.  

He continued: “It’s not like the good old days when this weekend is protected. 

“From a selfish perspective, we’d love to have a free weekend, but we completely understand there’s a lot of demand on the calendar all year now.  

“We feel we’re custodians of the sevens and it’s in Scottish Rugby’s interests to make sure the event retains a high profile around the world. At the same time, we can’t sit and demand anything.” 

Attempts have been made to attract a younger audience to this year’s competition. A party tent located opposite the main grandstand will be one of the attractions designed at helping future-proof the tournament.  

He said: “The reality is the majority of the supporters who sit in the grandstand aren’t getting any younger, and the people going to the fan zone probably didn’t come seven or eight years ago.  

“You’ve got to look forward and future-proof the event as best you can. That is one of the big challenges.”  

Scotland Rugby News:

He hopes to renew conversations about protecting the second weekend in April with whoever replaces Mark Dodson as Scottish Rugby chief executive.  

As well as continuing the traditions of Ned Haig, the creator of sevens rugby in Melrose, there are serious financial implications for the club.  

“The sevens is the reason Melrose has been able to be a beacon of rugby in the Borders for so long,” Morris said.  

He added “Costs are rising on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis. The sevens is a huge part of financing Melrose Rugby and all it does.  

“Our role as a sevens group is to put on the best day possible whilst maximising the financial return for the club.  

“We’re budgeted to make over £150,000 and we’re looking like we’ll exceed that. It doesn’t mean the club can do everything it wants to do, but it certainly helps.”