x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Children turn out in huge numbers

More than 50 Emirati children had their first feel of a rugby ball in the Etihad Airways Harlequins Rugby School.

Hood Saliman Rashed, 12, throws a rugby ball during the training camp run by the Abu Dhabi Harlequins.
Hood Saliman Rashed, 12, throws a rugby ball during the training camp run by the Abu Dhabi Harlequins.

ABU DHABI // More than 50 Emirati children had their first feel of a rugby ball and went on to enjoy the rough and tumble of the sport in the Etihad Airways Harlequins Rugby School at Al Ghazal Golf Club yesterday. The four-day clinic ends on Saturday by which time 400 Emitati and international children will have taken part in the taster sessions.

Dean Richards, the former England and Lions No 8 and now the Harlequins director of rugby, heading the coaching team said: "It was a marriage made in heaven to have Etihad and Harlequins come together to help and develop rugby in an emerging part of the world. "It is very rewarding to see so many children given the opportunity - some or most of them for the first time in rugby. There is some good talent already in Abu Dhabi."

Richards was joined by Harlequins' club captain Will Skinner, David Strettle, the England international, and the coaching staff. The sessions have been designed for the seven to 14 age group with the classes in the mornings and evenings. Etihad will next co-host the region's largest junior rugby tournament with the Abu Dhabi Harlequins Rugby Club at the same venue on Nov 14-15. Peter Baumgartner, Etihad Airways' executive vice president marketing, said they were delighted to be involved with such a high- profile coaching team from the Harlequins conducting the rugby school.

"It gives me great pleasure using one of our global sporting partners to give something back to the local community," he said. Meanwhile, Mohammed al Mahmoud, the Abu Dhabi Sports Council's general secretary, added: "The Etihad Harlequins Rugby Schools are a great initiative for the Emirati children and truly enhances the Middle East's youth rugby programme." apassela@thenational.ae