Blair Hawthorne leads Scots to India for Kabaddi World Cup

Blair Hawthorne has no illusions about the scale of the challenge facing the Scots when they travel to the Punjab to participate in Kabaddi's World Cup next week.

On the one hand, the Scots, captained by 21-year-old Aberdonian Hawthorne, have had a few weeks to prepare for their maiden global event, where they will tackle Canada, Afghanistan and the reigning champions, India, from December 4 to 8.

On the other, millions of Punjabis are gearing up to cheer on their heroes, in a tournament which they always expect to win as much as Brazil or the All Blacks do in football and rugby.

The Scottish contingent, which is largely made up of the University of Strathclyde's rugby personnel, will be rank underdogs when they fly to Asia on Thursday evening.

Yet Hawthorne, who is currently in the final year of studying for an economics degree, seems remarkably unfazed by the challenge of tackling the planet's finest opponents in the contact sport, which is similar to rugby, but played without a ball.

"Although we are newcomers to Kabaddi we know each other very well and, hopefully, our existing team ethic will stand us in good stead," said Hawthorne, whose squad have been coached by Kash Taank and Prem Singh.

"We have nothing to lose and, who knows, that may be enough to help us pull off a shock.

"If nothing else, it's sure to be the the trip of a lifetime. It really will be an unbelievable adventure and we are extremely grateful to be able to represent our country."

As their excitement mounts, the 15 players have been provided with kilts by Scotland's largest Highland wear specialist, McCalls, and Hawthorne & Co have also gained valuable assistance from Glasgow City Council and the university staff at Strathclyde.

But, on what is the third occasion the World Cup has been staged, with teams from 14 nations taking part, the Scots recognise this is a huge step into the unknown,

"The game is played at a frantic pace, which makes anticipation and team work absolutely vital," said Hawthorne. "It's a very intense sport, which requires high levels of physical and mental strength. So we know we have to hit the ground running over there."

But, on current form, they can only improve on some of Scotland's other teams.