World Bowls Championships: Scots a target after Commonwealth success

Lawn bowls
Scotland's bowlers are competing in Christchurch, New Zealand

Scotland's success makes them "targets" at the World Bowls Championships in New Zealand, according to high performance manager Rhona Howie.

Other nations will be wary of them as competition starts this week, she said.

"Scotland are obviously very successful on the world stage," Howie told BBC Scotland.

"The Commonwealth Games was the last big event and we obviously did well on home soil, so people will be out to beat us."

The outdoor championships in Christchurch start on 29 November and run until 11 December.

It goes ahead despite the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck earlier this month, the epicentre of which was just over 100 miles from the venues for this quadrennial event.

Scotland team for World Bowls Championships
Singles Ladies - Lesley Doig
Singles Men - Darren Burnett
Pairs Ladies - Lesley Doig, Lauren Baillie
Pairs Men - Paul Foster, Alex Marshall
Triples Ladies - Julie Forrest, Stacey McDougall, Claire Johnston
Triples Men - Ronnie Duncan, Iain McLean, Darren Burnett
Fours Ladies - Julie Forrest, Stacey McDougall, Lauren Baillie, Claire Johnston
Fours Men - Ronnie Duncan, Iain McLean, Paul Foster, Alex Marshall

Howie admits the venues will be challenging for the Scots.

"They're playing on four different greens, all with very different conditions, and they'll be tough conditions, so it's how the players deal with those as a wee gust of wind here or there could be the difference," she said.

"It's going to be tough but I've got every faith that the guys are prepared and ready to perform."

This is only one of the qualification events for the Commonwealth Games team after Bowls Scotland agreed ranking targets with Commonwealth Games Scotland.

They can qualify for each discipline should they manage a top-six finish in New Zealand, although there will be further opportunities in competition in 2017.

Paul Foster and Alex Marshall
Scotland's Paul Foster and Alex Marshall won gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and will play in the pairs and fours in New Zealand

Scotland head coach David Gourlay is adamant that thoughts of qualification for the Gold Coast in 2018 will not be a distraction.

"It's nothing new as we faced this in Adelaide to qualify for Glasgow," he said.

"There is a little bit of added pressure, but we've tried to focus on players performing with distinction and bringing back medals, as last time we came away with three, so it would be good to add to that."

Olympic gold medal winning curler Howie believes bowls needs a culture change to prevent Scotland from falling behind in the sport and, as she did with curling, has been working on both physical and psychological performances.

"The players have played for so long they know {the technical and tactical} side, but it's to push them to that extra level," she said.

"We're not saying they have to bench press 120kg, but they play three games a day and have to be physically fit.

Rhona Howie returning to Scotland with gold medal
Rhona Howie led her rink to curling gold at the Winter Olympics

"It is a mental game as you are on the green for a long time, so mentally you have to be fit and that team dynamic is huge.

"Five people aren't going to play well all the time, somebody is going to have a bad game, so the team dynamic and helping each other through that is vital and could add that extra percentage."

While the players focus on this championship, Gourlay told BBC Scotland he and Howie have an eye on the next generation and are working with the governing body on programmes to sustain and build on the success enjoyed in recent years.

"The Commonwealth Games was really important for bowls as a sport," he added. "With the guys doing so well, winning three medals, the media coverage and exposure we got was great, but coming with that is a lot of expectation that we keep that going.

"It's important we put the building blocks, the foundation, in place for future as we can't always rely on the Alex Marshalls, Paul Fosters, Darren Burnetts and that's the process we're doing at the moment."

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