x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

British School Al Khubairat boys set to take off for England competition

The school's senior team are representing the UAE as one of only two overseas sides at the Rosslyn Park National Schools Sevens in London. Six emerging youngsters for the UAE

The BSAK boys, in blue, went down to Jumeirah College in the UAE Schools League. Razan Alzayani / The National
The BSAK boys, in blue, went down to Jumeirah College in the UAE Schools League. Razan Alzayani / The National

The young players from British School Al Khubairat will board their flight to England this evening with optimism in their hearts - and long studs and gloves packed in their bags.

The school's senior team are representing the UAE as one of only two overseas sides at the Rosslyn Park National Schools Sevens in London this week.

On Wednesday, they signed off ahead of the trip with a defeat in the UAE Schools League against Jumeirah College in the heat of Dubai spring on a hard and fast track at Jebel Ali. Given the forecast for this week in London, they may have been better served staging all their preparatory training sessions in Ski Dubai instead.

The Abu Dhabi school side will face some of the leading rugby institutions in the UK during the prestigious sevens competition this week.

Their biggest foe could be alien weather conditions, however. "I have only seen them play in rain once in two years of being here," said Ed Lewsey, the director of rugby at BSAK, citing the thunderstorms at the 2013 Dubai Sevens as the one time his charges have faced inclement weather.

"It is all part of the learning curve for the boys. It is exciting for everyone involved, as the trip has been in the planning for a long time."

It is not just playing style which will be threatened by the weather, which the forecast suggests will be rainy and with top temperatures at a balmy 6°C, but sartorial, too.

BSAK's new kit, which has been specially minted for the competition, was stuck in Paris en route to Abu Dhabi at the end of the school week due to the snow.

Despite the challenges, the team from the capital are hopeful of success in the 84-year-old event, which is the top schools sevens event in the UK.

"We have Stowe and Sevenoaks Schools in our group, who we know are great rugby schools, but there are a couple of unknown quantities, too," Lewsey said. "We are targeting two wins, which would represent success."

The British School Al Khubairat have a tough assignment when they travel to London for the Rosslyn Park sevens, but the amount of young talent here suggests the sport thrives in the UAE’s international schools. Here we pick six of the brightest teen talents produced on these shores.

Six on the horizon

1. Jordan Onojaife (Jumeirah College/Northampton Saints)

Now studying at Stowe School in England, the 17-year-old lock had never played rugby before chancing upon it as a pupil at Jumeirah College. A rapid rise has seen him offered academy terms at the English Premiership club Northampton Saints, as well as play for England U18s.

2. Matt Travers (Jumeirah College/Dubai Hurricanes)

The talented fly-half is hoping to catch the eye of the Leicester Tigers academy if he makes the grade to attend Loughborough University this summer. “Fingers crossed he can get his foot in the door when he is over there, then the rest is up to him,” said Richard Vivian, his coach at JC.

3. James Capon (Dubai College/Dubai Hurricanes)

Surprised his senior teammates with a mesmeric brace of tries on his Hurricanes first XV debut last week. His electric running skills are hardly news to followers of schools rugby. Before the 2011 Dubai Sevens, even Samoa’s players were trailing in his wake during a warm-up friendly at DC.

4. Sam Bullock (Dubai College)

Seemed mature beyond his years as a 16 year old when he was kicking goals from the touchline in front of 40,000 people on Pitch 1 in the final of the 2011 Gulf U18 event at the Dubai Sevens. Fifteen months on the scrum-half is so good he seems to have outgrown the schools game already.

5. Sean Tierney (BSAK)

The willowy full-back is one of the standout players in the squad heading to Rosslyn Park. “He has pace, agility and bravery in the tackle,” said Ed Lewsey, the director of rugby at BSAK. “He has the rangy stride of a 400m runner which makes him difficult to stop.”

6. Iziq Foa’i (Cambridge High School/Abu Dhabi Harlequins)

The 17-year-old loose-forward has already played for the Quins first team. The club hope to send the New Zealander to their London equivalent to work with the English Premiership champions’ elite player development group.

pradley@thenational.ae