x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Better for rugby's minnows to grow a bit than be bullied

The UAE are hoping to be able to play in this year's Dubai Rugby Sevens, but perhaps the International Rugby Board's decision to have them prove themselves is not such a bad thing.

Something definitely will be lost if the new UAE team do not make it to play at this year's Dubai Rugby Sevens, and the lack of a home team in the tournament is a distinct possibility.

Following changing from the Arabian Gulf to the UAE at the turn of the year, the International Rugby Board are demanding the local representatives prove their worth, via the Asian Sevens series, rather than just guaranteeing them a berth.

Fair enough - the Arabian Gulf, full of established players from the rugby-playing expatriate community, found it hard enough to compete. So it would hardly be a tea party for an embryonic UAE side, which promises to involve at least some Emirati newcomers.

While having a side in the first round of the HSBC World Series would be nice, it could also damage the UAE Rugby Association's plan to grow the game. As Paul Treu, the South Africa coach, put it: "There is no fun getting beat by 80 or 100 points."

He is spot on. When Gulf sevens hit a nadir during the final years at the old Dubai Exiles, some top players chose to play the social competitions for their clubs rather than sign up for heavy defeats in the IRB tournament.

After the chastening, at least those players stayed in the game. There is no guarantee that novice Emirati players would do the same.

pradley@thenational.ae


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