x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Cullen all set to strut his stuff

The All Black try-scoring great will be lacing up his boots for competitive rugby for the first time since ending his illustrious career at Munster in 2006.

SHARJAH // Any of the part-time rugby players turning out at the Sharjah Tens at the Sharjah Wanderers ground today would be forgiven for feeling a pang of trepidation when they look up and see they are marking Christian Cullen. However, they can rest assured that they are not the only ones. The All Black try-scoring great will be lacing up his boots for competitive rugby for the first time since bringing the curtain down on his illustrious career at Munster in 2006.

"I haven't played for a few years now," said Cullen, whose exhilarating exploits as a player inspired Danny Cipriani, amongst others, to pursue rugby, rather than cricket or football. "I played one charity match a while back but that was pretty easy-going, so this is going to be interesting, especially in this heat. At least it is only seven minutes each way - you can't get too tired in that time.

"We've got a few young guys as well, so I think we will just chuck the ball to them all the time." The pre-tournament preparation for the 34-year-old winger, who scored 46 tries in 53 Tests with the All Blacks, extended to a game of touch rugby with his new Toa Dubai teammates at Repton on Wednesday evening, after flying in from Wellington that morning. He was also on hand to assist the Transguard Elite Sporting Academy coaches run a coaching clinic at English College yesterday.

While Toa can boast one of the game's greats in their ranks, most of their rivals will be without some of their top players who will be part of a training camp with the Arabian Gulf senior team ahead of April's Asian Six Nations. Meanwhile, in Singapore, the Arabian Gulf's under 16 academy side added another victory to their tour tally, after beating their hosts 48-0. @Email:pradley@thenational.ae