x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Al Ain Amblers and UAE head for Emirati goal

The club have set themselves a target of entering an all-Emirati side in the Dubai Rugby Sevens at the end of November.

Emirati players work on strengthening drills during practice at the Sevens pitch.
Emirati players work on strengthening drills during practice at the Sevens pitch.

The Al Ain Amblers have set themselves a target of entering an all-Emirati side in the Dubai Rugby Sevens at the end of November.

The club are still in the throes of consolidation after a tricky campaign last season, when availability problems eventually led to demotion from the top flight of the game here.

However, they were still one of the few clubs to regularly field a UAE national in their side.

Hareb Al Azri, who is one of the leading players in the UAE Shaheen representative side, played at full-back and on the wing for the Amblers.

He has since switched clubs to the Abu Dhabi Saracens, as he is based in the capital with his job as a pilot for Etihad.

But the Amblers remain committed to attracting indigenous Arab players to the sport, a task that has been aided by the arrival of Sami Smara as the Arabic-speaking rugby development officer for the Garden City.

"It is an aspiration of the club to have an all-Emirati side, and if we don't manage it this year then we will try again next year," said Kit Philp, who stepped down as the club chairman this week.

"We do have a number of guys who have played before. We are not sure if it will be realised [by November] but it is certainly an aspiration of ours."

News of Al Ain's aim to invest in indigenous players will be well received at the headquarters of UAE Rugby, who regard the abbreviated format as the main vehicle for attracting Emiratis to the sport.

With entry to the World Series at the Dubai Sevens now no longer provided, the national sevens programme has some breathing room when it comes to promoting novice players.

"We are trying to get the right blend between development and performance," said Wayne Marsters, the UAE rugby manager and the national sevens coach.

"In [the opening leg of the Asian Sevens Series], Singapore had Inoke Afeaki, the ex-Tonga captain, as their head coach, Al Caravelli [the former United States sevens coach] was helping the Philippines, Ben Gollings [the former England sevens captain] is with Sri Lanka.

"They are performance driven and are there to get results, whereas our programme is different. We are using it as a pathway for the development of our players.

"We are only in our infancy as an association, so we are coming at it from a different angle to the other nations at the moment."

pradley@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE