TEAM Scotland has accumulated a massive haul of medals at Commonwealth Games since the turn of the century, from a total of 30 at Manchester in 2002 to 44 in the Gold Coast four years later. So far, rugby sevens has yet to contribute even a solitary bronze to that total - but Lee Jones, for one, is confident that could be about to change.

Birmingham will be the fourth Games for the former Glasgow Warriors and Scotland winger, and so far he has got no closer to the podium than the sixth place the squad managed in both 2010 and 2018. The men’s tournament itself has been part of the Games programme since 1998 - the women’s event was held for the first time four years ago - and to date has been dominated by traditional powerhouse New Zealand, who have won all but once. 

South Africa ended New Zealand’s monopoly eight years ago, while England, Australia and Fiji have also contended for medals. Scotland were some way off the pace during their early involvement in the competition, but Jones believes that, under current head coach Ciaran Beattie, they have become a more well-rounded outfit who are entirely capable of holding their own against the big guns. 

“I’ve been in and out of sevens squads throughout my career, and I feel that this time with what Ciaran has brought in, and the way he’s approached the coaching side of things, that we’ve got a game that can challenge the best in the world if we’re on it,” he said. “Whereas in the past I think we’ve potentially struggled to really challenge the better teams. But the way we’re playing the game - the way we’re defending and attacking - if we’re on it we can put the best teams under pressure.”

Jones was speaking before this week’s announcement that in future Scotland, England and Wales will compete on the World Series and in the Olympic Games as Team GB, and it remains to be seen how detrimental an impact that change will have on the abbreviated game in the land of its birth. What is clear, however, is that recent participation in the World Series has been of significant benefit to Jones and his team-mates. It has exposed them to the highest level of opposition and demonstrated that if they are on top of their game they can upset the odds - factors that are vital if they are to have the self-belief needed to claim a medal in Birmingham.

“Confidence is a big thing to do with it,” Jones continued. “If you look back on this season as a whole, maybe the results haven’t been quite where we need them. But there are elements in there - we beat South Africa in Toulouse recently and that was a massive confidence-boost for the boys. When we play them down in Birmingham, that’s in the back of your mind that we’ve already beaten them.

“You apply little things like that. It comes down to 14 minutes at the end of the day. You just need to be on the money for that 14 minutes, and have a bit of confidence.

“It will be a big challenge. Our best finish so far has been sixth in a couple of the tournaments - we need to do better than that. 

“The boys are going out to try and get a medal. Gold is obviously better.”

Scotland are in Pool B of the 16-team tournament along with the South Africans, Tonga and Malaysia. The action at the Coventry Stadium begins next Friday, with the top two teams from each pool progressing to the quarter-finals the following day. The semi-finals and final are on Sunday 31. 

“The way the pools are set up, it comes down to a couple of games - 14 minutes and that’s a game,” Jones added. “The fact it’s in Birmingham means you can almost class it as a home games. I think there will be a lot of family down the road.

“It’s not too far away. It’s not quite Glasgow, but it’s probably as close to home as you can get.”

Scotland were beaten by South Africa in the quarter-finals of those home Games eight years ago, but Jones nonetheless has happy memories of Glasgow thanks to the sheer volume of the support - in terms of both numbers and decimals. A total of 171,000 people packed into Ibrox over the two days of the competition, producing one of the best atmospheres of the whole event.

“Rugby-wise I’d say that Glasgow in 2014 probably sticks out across my whole career in terms of everything. It was a full house at Ibrox - that was a definite highlight.”

Getting on the podium this time round will surely rival that as a career high.