Settled Rowe on trajectory to the top
The life of an international sevens player is one associated with travelling to the four corners of the world in a demanding but rewarding calendar year. Ten events in locations ranging from Hong Kong to Los Angeles means that a sevens player is never far away from their next visit to the departure lounge.
For Kyle Rowe, who is on his first full year with Scotland 7s, life on the move is something he became accustomed to long before becoming a rugby player. The 22 year-old was born in Ascot and moved up to Scotland aged eight on account of his father being in the army.
“He got posted there [Edinburgh] and they’ve lived there pretty much ever since,” explains Rowe. “About this time last year, my mum and dad bought as house in Alva, up in Stirling, so that is kind of their forever home now. It means we aren’t all, well my mum and dad aren’t getting posted everywhere – my mum can kind of just settle down and that sort of stuff.
“It’s been a lifetime of moving around and kind of being uncertain with houses and obviously where me and Ethan, my brother, would be. Like being at school and all of that sort of stuff, so it feels a lot more settled now.”
Rowe admits to not knowing precisely what his dad’s military roles have encompassed over the years and laughs when it’s suggested that knowledge on the topic is too much power. He does remember his first foray into rugby, however, explaining: “Well my dad tried to get me into it the year before I went to Queen Victoria School [in Dunblane], which is an army boarding school. I didn’t really like it then but that was the main sport at the school so after a while I fell in love with it.”
After dabbling with playing across the back division at school, Kyle wound up on the wing, where he featured briefly for Glasgow Hawks before representing Ayr in their memorable league and cup double-winning campaign during the 2018/19 season.
Peter Murchie was Head Coach at Millbrae and persuaded Kyle to join the club, who gave him the platform to also represent Scotland U20 and the national Club XV. But it was during that trophy-laden season with Ayr that Rowe really came to prominence, scoring a double in the Premiership Final against Heriot’s and adding another in the national cup final a week later, against the same opponents.
Rowe recalls: “Yeah well, I think both finals where pretty special and I had never won anything before. Managing to get a couple of tries just kind of put the icing on the cake really and getting the chance to play at BT Murrayfield was something that every player wants to do at some point.”
Almost before success could sink in, Kyle was called up to the Scotland 7s squad for legs in London and Paris at the tail end of the 2018/19 campaign. Having trained with the squad throughout the year, he and Kaleem Barreto were afforded the opportunity to play on the big stage, and on live tv.
Kyle scored his first try on the circuit in a 47-14 win over Spain in Paris, and was brought into Head Coach Ciaran Beattie’s core squad ahead of the 2019/20 circuit – a moment that was not lost on him: “Getting a taste of what sevens is like and then obviously getting offered a contract was ideal. Becoming be a professional sportsman was what I wanted to do for quite a long time so it was great to realise that ambition.
“I spoke to my mum and dad obviously when the call came around and after having played in London and Paris, it was a very easy decision for me to make because the lifestyle, being around the boys and stuff was great and I just feel it was the correct decision for me to take at the time.”
Kyle’s inaugural season on the world sevens circuit has been one of fleeting moments of quality interspersed with frustrating injury issues. A promising debut in Dubai was tempered by an injury that would rule him out of the next few events, as he explained: “I was gutted to breaking my collarbone in Dubai in the last game because obviously I was buzzing about going to South Africa [Cape Town] and but speaking to Ciaran after it happened, he just said ‘make sure you get all you rehab done and you will come back flying’.
“I wanted to come back fitter, stronger and quicker than I was in Dubai and that was my goal. Being picked for LA and Vancouver was great because I had missed the three previous tournaments and I was desperate to be able to showcase what I could do there.
“Obviously it’s gutting missing Hong Kong, Singapore, London and Paris [due to the effects of COVID-19] because I felt like I was really getting on. But I just have to take confidence from the performances that I have managed and need to stay positive really and take it into next year. If I can keep on improving my game, taking those extra steps to make me a better player, then that will stand me in good stead.”
The Tokyo Olympics, scheduled for later this year, have been postponed until 2021, which may allow the likes of Kyle more of an opportunity to impress in a bid to be a part of Team GB, a notion that the player can’t shy away from, adding: “It’s not something you can say ‘oh I don’t fancy that’; you’ve got to have that mind-set that ‘well why not?’ because we have shown we can beat England and Wales this year, so players have got to be in with a chance.”
Such lofty dreams can perhaps wait for now in light of the current climate but for Kyle Rowe, whose star keeps rising, the possibilities could well be worth the wait.