x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Consistency in Emirati rugby and not popularity will do for now

The inception of this new tournament exclusively for indigenous players could become the annual feature of the rugby season for the players involved.

If the fledgling Emirati Shaheen rugby team do manage to bridge the experience divide and win the first West Asia Sevens final at lunchtime tomorrow, you should still be safe on the roads.

There will not be any artificial commotion if you are driving down Al Sufouh Road, or Beach Road, or Al Wasl.

No doughnuts in front of the Madinat Jumeirah. And there certainly will not be an open-top bus parade at any point next week.

Rugby in the Emirati community is still light years away from the popularity of football. So there will not be a repeat of those famous scenes on the streets of Dubai when Ismail Matar and his teammates won the Gulf Cup of Nations, defeating Oman 1-0 in the final, in 2007.

That tournament might be highly instructive in one regard, though. Namely, the power of local bragging rights.

Seldom is a sporting success enjoyed anywhere in the world as much as when it comes against your nearest neighbours.

As such, the UAE's rugby playing Emiratis will likely be more driven than ever before for their matches against Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Iran at The Sevens this weekend.

The inception of this new tournament exclusively for indigenous players could become the annual feature of the rugby season for the players involved.

As Duncan Hall, the performance manager of UAE rugby, says, these players are representing their country. And it is likely to mean more to them than it has done in any competition to date.

pradley@thenational.ae

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