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UAE squad set to display fruits of push to promote local youngsters

The UAE should have plenty of young local talent on display when the Mumbai Sevens kicks off today.

DUBAI // The schoolboy Yousef Ashkari, 16, will become the youngest rugby player to represent the UAE at the senior level when he debuts for the national team at the Mumbai Sevens on Saturday.

The Dubai teenager is one of several newcomers on the all-Emirati UAE squad in the second leg of the Asian Sevens Series in India.

Ashkari, Humaid Ateeq and Adel Abdullah are the latest products of the Rugby Federation’s Player Pathway Programme to be selected for the senior sevens side.

“Yousef Ashkari has both pace and power, and I have a feeling he will be the star of the tournament in Mumbai,” said Mohammed Shaker, the manager of UAE representative teams.

“We are looking for new international players and giving opportunity for the young players.

“We are putting our faith in talented young players like Yousef and Saeed Al Muhairi, who are the flyers in the side because they are our future.”

The UAE have won one match in two tournaments in the series and are likely to face a similarly tough examination this weekend.

The sport’s overseers here have said results are secondary compared to the main mission of getting more Emirati players involved in the abridged game.

According to Ben van Rooyen, the UAE rugby development officer, the youthful make-up of the touring national team in India is a sign of the success that is coming to fruition of the federation’s schools programme.

“We now have seven boys from the HSBC Player Pathway Programme in Dubai and one from Al Ain that have represented the UAE national sevens squad,” he said.

pradley@thenational.ae

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