DUBAI // The UAE Shaheen suffered a chastening first experience of Gulf Men's League competition at The Sevens last night, but are confident they will be stronger for it.
The all-Emirati development side were beaten 46-0 by Doha in the only round of pool matches in the domestic competition on the opening day here.
"We had some difficulties because we are all new to each other, and quite new to the game," said Mohammed Kaboul, the Shaheen forward. "Doha have been playing together as a side for ages, but this was only the third time some of our guys had even played rugby. But we'll get there."
The game's rulers here believe results are currently secondary in importance to the fact there are more Emiratis than ever before playing at a Dubai Rugby Sevens this year.
In addition to the fledgling Shaheen side, a UAE select side playing in the demanding International Invitational competition today includes the six most experienced Emirati players.
"We know the standard of competition is very high, but we have told the players to go and learn from these players they are playing with and against," said Saood Belshalat, a UAE Rugby Federation board member.
Jebel Ali Dragons laid down a marker at the start of their Gulf title defence, as they thrashed Dubai Wasps 50-7 in their opening match.
Last year's runners-up, Abu Dhabi Harlequins, made a fitful beginning to their campaign, but were eventual 28-7 victors over Jebel Ali's second string.
However their challenge for the title suffered a blow before a ball was even kicked when Imad Reyal, who is one of the UAE's leading sevens players, opted out.
The speedy Sri Lankan fullback turned up to play for Hunters Seven in the International Social tournament instead.
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