x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Buddy scheme in UAE rugby could spur local development

Club chairmen say they have had no dialogue whatsoever with the UAE Rugby Federation over what they can do to promote Emirati involvement, writes Paul Radley.

UAE team captain Renier Els, centre, helps pull down a obsecured Hong Kong ball carrier at a Emirates Rugby Tournament at the Sevens Rugby Complex in Dubai. Mike Young / The National
UAE team captain Renier Els, centre, helps pull down a obsecured Hong Kong ball carrier at a Emirates Rugby Tournament at the Sevens Rugby Complex in Dubai. Mike Young / The National

Logic says there is no way the UAE Rugby Federation can realistically extend an "Emirati only" policy from the sevens game to the full XVs version. Why would they want to? One board member said this week they "would not hesitate" to pick a fully Emirati XVs side if it was feasible. It is not.

It would a risk irreparable damage to the morale of rookie players still learning the game, as well as carry far more significant risks to health and safety.

Why the rush? In sevens, it is understandable. There is the Asian Games next year, only passport-holders are permitted, and the UAE want to be market leaders in the Middle East.

So far, so agreeable. But the 15-a-side game is totally different. The eight-man scrum is no place for novice players, no matter where you come from.

With the game having been the preserve of expatriates for the past 40 years, the new rulers can be forgiven impatience.

But there are ways and means of speeding up progress. Club chairmen say they have had no dialogue whatsoever with the federation over what they can do to promote Emirati involvement. What about a "target" system for their clubs?

Or a buddy scheme in the national squad. Pick 15 experienced expatriates, give them one Emirati buddy apiece at their position, and task them with getting their man up to speed to the extent they would be happy for them to fill in for them in the side. There would be no escaping the responsibility then.

pradley@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE