When Damien Scott returned from Otago University, he used to play cricket in summer but all that changed two years ago.

"Last year I just decided to take my rugby a bit more seriously," says Scott who graduates with a science degree, majoring in chemistry, early next year.

With winter rugby not an option here, the University Club blindside flanker from Dunedin found the Aerospread Hawke's Bay Sevens the ideal platform to maintain a sound fitness regime through summer and autumn.

"I just wanted to keep the skills and the fitness up, coming into the fifteens season," says Scott, revealing trainer Luke Stephenson has a penchant for putting players through the spin-dry cycle even under last season's coach, Tafai Ioasa.

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The 21-year-old from Clive, who should be a shoo-in for Tanalised Napier Pirate Rugby and Sports premier men's club team next winter in the Bay, joins Cole Eru, Ricky Hayes and Trent Hape as the only players from last season for the Bay sevens campaign under the tutelage of Magpies halfback Ellery Wilson and newly appointed Mitre 10 Cup coach Mark Ozich as Wilson's assistant.

Scott is in the Christopher Johnston-captained 12-member Bay squad competing at the annual Central zone competition, the Horowhenua-Kapiti Sevens, in Levin today.

The tourney at Playford Park signals the start of domestic sevens with provincial unions converging at two other regional events — the Northern (Cambridge) and Southern (Timaru) — as 36 men and women's teams aim to qualify for the Bayley's National Sevens to be staged in Rotorua on January 13-14.

The Bay go in as third seeds in Central with the top five of eight teams progressing to the nationals mindful that champions Wellington and finalists Taranaki are pushovers.

Complacency goes out of the window because seedings for the nationals also become imperative.

The former St John's College pupil, who also attended Clive School and Hereworth, says making the semifinals is the first priority.

"I reckon we've got the team to take it out this year," says Scott relishing the challenge after garnering more confidence.

Last year his nerves were a little jangled and he expects the eight newbies to feel that today.

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A chuckling Scott smartly realised that time and space were of essence in sevens, especially if you're a forward.

However, the construction worker relishes the value added from sevens to XV rugger.

"It allows you to express yourself a little bit more in the fifteens game as well," he says although he's grappled with his share of injury demons.

He doesn't consider Bay's fresh element as a liability but actually adding to the dynamics of the team.

Last weekend they had a pre-season hit out against Manawatu and Wairapapa which gave them things to work on.

"We learned a lot but when we started playing it was pretty bad. It was our first run around together so that was expected."

Communication became the common denominator for the young and restless as they soon found cohesiveness and signs of strains of a sixth sense of comprehension that is fundamental in the abbreviated game.

"You've got to work pretty hard off the ball. When you see one of your big guys with the ball you know he's going to carry and look for an offload so you have to be there."

With 5C weather in Dunedin for the best part of winter rugby, Scott is feeling the balmy Bay weather.

He says Wilson lays down a structure, akin to Ioasa, but expects the troops to improvise on the paddock.

The former Clive junior club member, whose parents Sheryl and Ian Scott, have always supported him.

KEY DETAILS

HAWKE'S BAY: 1 Ricky Hayes, 2 Cole Eru, 3 Damien Scott, 4 Trent Hape, 5 Ausage Fomai, 6 Mitchell Drew, 7 Ioane Lauano, 8 Samuela Kokosigasiga, 9 Al Momosea, 10 Christopher Johnston (c), 11 Tyrone Dodd-Edwards, 12 Jesse King.

Coach: Ellery Wilson.
Ast coach: Mark Ozich.
Trainer: Luke Stephenson.
Manager: Tim Jones.

POOLS

Number denotes seeding:

Pool A: Wellington (1), Manawatu (4), Horowhenua-Kapiti (5), Poverty Bay (8).
Pool B: Taranaki (2), Hawke's Bay (3), Wairarapa Bush (6), Whanganui (7).

HB GAMES

11am: v Wairarapa Bush.
12.40pm: v Taranaki.
2.20pm: v Whanganui.
3.40pm: Playoffs.

WOMEN

HAWKE'S BAY: 1 Felicity Powdrell, 2 Niamh Jefferson, 3 Teilah Ferguson, 4 Julie Ferguson-Ngawaka, 5 Paige Lush, 6 Hope Hakopa, 7 Marlane Harmer, 9 Nathasha Dean-Greville, 10 Danielle Pomare-Mackay, 11 Ruci Malanicagi, 12 Sincerely Horne, 13 Jamie Heather.

Co-coaches: Jo Heather and Danielle Nukunuku.
Trainer: Faryn Ngawaka.
Manager: Jamie Heather.

One pool: Manawatu (1), Wellington (2), Taranaki (3), Hawke's Bay (4), Poverty Bay (5).

HB GAMES

10am: v Manawatu.
11.20am: v Wellington.
5pm: Taranaki.
5.40pm: Finals.

LIVE STREAM

■ The games can be viewed on the Horowhenua union Facebook page, allblacks.com and the Black Ferns Facebook page.