x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

David Clark case may open door for others to play for UAE

IRB decision to allow Bahrain-based No 8 represent UAE bodes well, writes Paul Radley.

David Clark, the former Arabian Gulf captain, has been granted dispensation to play for the UAE by the International Rugby Board despite living and working in Bahrain.
David Clark, the former Arabian Gulf captain, has been granted dispensation to play for the UAE by the International Rugby Board despite living and working in Bahrain.

The playing reserves of UAE rugby have been bolstered after David Clark, the former Arabian Gulf captain, was given dispensation to play for the national team by the International Rugby Board (IRB).

Clark lives and works in Bahrain, but has also lived in the UAE in the past, where he has played for Abu Dhabi Harlequins as well as the Dubai Dragons and Exiles.

He was one of the outstanding servants in the 17-year history of the Gulf side, and was unfortunate to lose the right to play for the UAE, having lived in Bahrain for the past three years.

However, the IRB have since assessed his case, and informed the No 8 he can make himself available for selection for the UAE with immediate effect.

Clark, 37, said he had planned to hang up his boots last season, but now has unfinished business to attend to.

"I would like to get a few scalps playing for the UAE, as not many people get the chance to have played for two nations," said Clark, who played Heineken Cup rugby in Scotland in his early career.

"I missed it terribly. Having played six seasons in the UAE I feel a strong affiliation with the nation and was really representing them while playing for the Gulf."

Aside from the attributes Clark could potentially bring to the UAE back-row, this ruling could mark an important watershed for a number of players. The resources of the representative side were severely depleted when the Gulf union was disbanded last year and its constituent nations were encouraged to set up their own teams.

With the biggest player base, the UAE assumed the Gulf's place in the top flight of continental rugby, namely in the annual Asian Five Nations. Despite having such a denuded player stock, they even managed to improve on the performance of the Gulf by finishing third in last season's tournament.

However, they remain a distance behind Japan, the best side in Asia, and Hong Kong, the leading amateur nation, and could do with all the experienced players they can find to close the gap.

Some fine young players have been lost for good. Jonny Macdonald has since opted to play for Scotland sevens, ruling him ineligible for the UAE, the country of his birth.

And another Abu Dhabi-born back, Paul Beard, took up the chance to represent Qatar, where he now lives, further down the Asian competition pyramid instead.

However, the Clark case could feasibly open the door for the likes of Rory Binder, the powerful Bahrain centre, and Taif al Delamie, an Omani national - both of whom are thought to be willing to relocate to Dubai for the cause - to return to international rugby with the UAE.

pradley@thenational.ae


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