Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 9 December 2019

Timeframe: Dubai Rugby Sevens is still going strong 50 years on

On this day in 2008, the tournament was won by South Africa, which played a tense final match against England

Rob Vickerman of England evades the Argentine defence during the final day of the Emirates Airline Dubai Sevens at The Sevens on November 29, 2008 in Dubai, UAE. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
Rob Vickerman of England evades the Argentine defence during the final day of the Emirates Airline Dubai Sevens at The Sevens on November 29, 2008 in Dubai, UAE. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

The Dubai Rugby Sevens, an annual ­seven-a-side tournament that marks the first leg of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, is the longest-running sporting event in the Middle East, having been founded in 1970. For decades it has seen athletes and spectators fly in from across the world to watch three days of matches between globally renowned national teams.

In 2008, there was more reason to celebrate, as the event found a new home. Formerly played at the Dubai Exile Rugby Ground in Al Awir, this was the year it moved to The Sevens Stadium, which was newly built for the 2009 Rugby Sevens World Cup, as the UAE had been chosen as host venue for this international event.

The top-tier Cup trophy in 2008 was won by South Africa, which played a tense final match against England on November 29. This photo shows Rob Vickerman of England attempting to evade the Argentine defence in the quarter-­finals that same day.

Eleven years on, and the event is still being played at The Sevens Stadium. The format is this: 16 teams compete in a men’s tournament divided into four groups of four teams, which battle it out against each other to get to the Cup finals. The stadium – home to eight rugby pitches, six cricket pitches, four netball / tennis courts and one basketball court – also plays host to the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series, Rugby Invitation Tournament and Netball Invitation Tournament each year.

This year’s Dubai Sevens is the 50th here in the UAE, with the 2019 iteration taking place between Thursday and Saturday, December 5 and 7. This time, one very special guest will fly in for the occasion: Kylie ­Minogue, who will perform live in concert to mark the anniversary.

The event has certainly come a long way since the ’70s, but there’s plenty more still to come.

Updated: November 28, 2019 05:00 PM

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