Nasser Al Junaibi finds that 'being an Emirati playing rugby makes you feel unique', and it also helped with his command of the English language.
A diet of rugby helped pupil academically
ABU DHABI // As Nasser Al Junaibi and his Al Yasmina teammates ended just inches short of a pushover try against Raha School, he might momentarily have wondered whether losing all that weight had been such a good idea.
After all, they just needed some extra oomph to get over that line, and having an additional 42kgs of weight behind them would probably have done the trick.
"I still miss being a prop sometimes, because that was how I started playing the game," Al Junaibi said, recalling the days when he was almost twice the size he is now.
After losing 42kgs in the space of nine months, the Emirati pupil no longer fits the mould of a squat, immovable prop forward. Now he looks more like a miniature, youthful version of Richie McCaw or Sam Warburton.
Dr Atkins could learn a thing or two from the Al Yasmina Under 16 team flanker. He puts his startling weight loss down to a healthy dose of willpower, and a steady diet of rugby.
"First of all, it was down to determination," he said. "Since I got attached to rugby I decided I needed to get fitter. That would make me a better player, and get me more minutes to play.
"Setting myself a goal, once I had put my mind to it, I had to do it. But it wasn't an easy thing to do."
Approximately 40 per cent of Al Yasmina's pupils are UAE nationals. Many, like the Abu Dhabi-born Al Junaibi, who has been playing the game for the past three years, have taken to rugby.
"It is great to see them involved in rugby," Matthew Morris, the physical education master at the school, said. "We have a few new boys in both the Under 16 and Under 18 teams, and they have the natural raw talent.
"Most of them are quick and agile, which makes them well suited to being back in rugby, especially in the sevens game."
Al Junaibi terms the moment he was first introduced to a sport he originally mistook for American football as a "point of change" in his life.
He says his command of the English language, for example, improved at the same rate as his waist size decreased.
He plays the game outside of school, too, having joined the youth section of Abu Dhabi Harlequins, and he cannot get enough of it.
"When I tell my uncles that I play rugby, they look at me like I'm weird and tell me they didn't think it is a sport I would play," he said.
"Being an Emirati playing rugby, it makes you feel unique and stand out more from the people around you.
"I keep telling my friends they need to give it a go."