x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Commitment pays off as IRB upgrades UAE rugby membership

Governing body promises to establish structures and help the game flourish in the Emirates and Asia at large.

The all-Emirati Shaheen team will compete in the Gulf Men's League in Dubai. Jake Badger for The National
The all-Emirati Shaheen team will compete in the Gulf Men's League in Dubai. Jake Badger for The National

DUBAI // The International Rugby Board says it is committed to ensuring the UAE "grow on the world stage" after confirming the national federation here has been made a full member of the sport's world governing body.

The UAE Rugby Federation took over running the game after the multi-state Arabian Gulf union was disbanded two years ago.

Mohammed Falaknaz, the federation's chairman, believes the upgrade in status from associate membership is due reward for the progress than has been made in developing rugby here.

"We have continued our commitment to growing the game through qualifying more coaches, as well as increasing participation by young people with an emphasis on our Emirati youth," Falaknaz said.

"All of this has culminated in the most wonderful news from IRB, that we have gained full membership, becoming the 100th union to do so. This is a significant milestone."

The timing of the announcement is ironic, coming on the eve of the first Dubai Rugby Sevens in which there has been no home representation in the IRB series competition.

The sport's rulers took away the automatic berth which had been filled by the Arabian Gulf, and then for one year by the UAE, and informed them they would have to qualify in future instead.

However, the UAE are represented in three competitions at the Sevens this weekend.

A development select side play in the highly competitive International Invitational, the all-Emirati Shaheen team go in the Gulf Men's League, while the women's national team are in the International Invitational.

"As home to 60 per cent of the global population and 80 per cent of the world's young people, Asia is a strategically important region for the IRB," Bernard Lapasset, the IRB chairman, said in a statement.

"Working in collaboration with the Asian Rugby Football Union we are currently investing over US$3 million (Dh11m) annually in development, high performance and tournament programmes across the region.

"We will ensure that UAE has the structures in place to flourish and grow on the world stage."

pradley@thenational.ae

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