DUBAI // UAE rugby bosses hopes they have found a solution to two ongoing problems after handing Mohammed Abbas, an Emirati newcomer, a debut at this weekend's Shanghai Sevens.
Superficially, Abbas's call up suits the mission of the game's administrators in this country to have more indigenous players involved in the national team set-up.
Along with Cyrus Homayoun and Mohanned Shaker, Abbas is one of three Emiratis in the squad for the second leg of the Asian Sevens Series.
However, his involvement might also provide a cure to an age-old problem suffered at the top level here, namely a lack of searing pace. According to Wayne Marsters, the UAE sevens coach, the new winger is one of the brightest prospects to emerge from the Shaheen development programme to date.
"I would think he has shown probably the most potential out of any Emirati player so far," Marsters said of the speedster.
"He is very, very quick, as a former track athlete, and he scored a bagful of tries in both trials we had. He is raw but we are looking forward to seeing him in action.
"He has a lot of potential and is very exciting because he has the speed we have been lacking for the past couple of seasons. It will be a big learning curve for him, but he will get a decent amount of game time for us to see what he is like playing at that level."
The UAE Rugby Association are looking to grow the base of Emirati players via the three-leg sevens series on the continent, with a view to future involvement in the Asian Games and Olympics.
"The Asian Sevens Series is now our primary focus and we are positive that we can progress in terms of performances with each tournament," said Salman Hadi, the secretary general of UAE Rugby.
"We are very excited to see Mohammed Abbas selected in the squad and look forward to him gaining tournament experience."
Patrick Hegarty and Antoine Bertheuil, the two players who shared scrum-half duties for the XVs side in the Asian Five Nations at the end of last season, have both been selected for the trip to China.
Hegarty will replace Callum Stevens, the Dubai Hurricanes back, in the centre. Stevens has suffered a fate that has quickly become a rite of passage for UAE representative rugby players, having been hospitalised by illness since the first leg of the series two weeks ago.
The UAE are in a group with China and Sri Lanka, meaning the brothers Imad and Shaheer Reyal will get to face their compatriots, who are now coached by the former England sevens player Ben Gollings.
Follow us @SprtNationalUAE