x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Association aiming for the best manager for UAE rugby

The national body hopes to attract a leader of international repute, after advertising for the newly-created position of performance manager.

DUBAI // The Rugby Association hopes to attract a leader of international repute, after advertising for the newly-created position of performance manager yesterday.

After leading the national team to third place in the Asian Five Nations, Bruce Birtwistle departed from his role as the head coach in May and returned to his native New Zealand.

While Birtwistle, who had a day job as a business unit manager, was in charge of the national team in a part-time capacity, his replacement will be appointed on a full-time basis and will have a far broader remit.

The new role is not solely concerned with the senior 15-a-side team, but also encompasses the sevens game, youth rugby, as well as overseeing an increase in Emirati playing numbers.

According to the job description, "persons without international experience should not apply".

"We are setting our sights high, because we need someone who has experience in this, not someone who aspires to it," Ian Bremner, the RA chief executive, said.

"We are looking for very inspirational leadership from this person, not only with the players, but also with other coaches in the country, to form a group of elite coaches."

With rugby sevens set to become an Olympic sport in 2016, the promotion of the game among Emiratis is a key feature of the job description.

Rugby remains an almost entirely alien game among Emiratis, which is a situation the performance manager will be tasked with addressing.

"I don't think we have realised our potential here because we have never had full-time people in place," Bremner said.

"Secondly, a large part of our population have never been provided with the opportunity.

"It would be very interesting to see, when we provide opportunities for Emiratis, how they can affect and improve what we are trying to do."

The association hope to have the new man in harness before the Dubai Rugby Sevens weekend in December. However, there remains a distinct possibility there will be no home representation in that competition.

The UAE sevens squad have been bolstered by the return of a trio of experienced players for this weekend's Borneo Sevens, the second leg of the HSBC Asian Sevens series.

The national team need to vastly improve on their first effort in Shanghai if they are going to convince the International Rugby Board they merit a place in the Sevens.

The squad, which was announced yesterday, has a far more seasoned look to it, thanks to the return of Stephen Cooper, who captained the Arabian Gulf at the 2009 Sevens World Cup. Two other senior players, Sean Hurley and Steve Smith, will also be making comebacks to the playing ranks.


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