x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Exile who found himself a place in UAE's Dubai Sevens squad

Imad Reyal has only been playing seriously for a few months, he grew up in Sri Lanka playing cricket before opting for rugby.

Imad Reyal, left, gave up cricket to play rugby.
Imad Reyal, left, gave up cricket to play rugby.

DUBAI // The elite nations of the World Sevens Series benefit from all the modern conveniences.

Some coaches employ GPS tracking systems to monitor the performances of their players in training, while others use iPad chalkboards to explain their game plan.

The rest, however, have to be content with gathering crumbs from under the rich men's table. With no centrally contracted players, or professionals of any sort, the UAE are pinning many of their hopes for this weekend on a Sri Lankan IT consultant from Deira.

Most people have some idea of what they are getting themselves into when they play the Dubai Rugby Sevens.

However, Imad Reyal, one of the new recruits in the UAE squad, has never been to the tournament. He has only been playing rugby seriously for a few months and only happened on national team selection when some of his teammates at Dubai Exiles encouraged him to tag along with them for training.

"A couple of boys who played for the UAE told me to come along, so I went a couple of times, and ended up getting selected," Reyal said.

The scrum-half's pedigree may be humble, but Wayne Marsters, the UAE coach, believes he might have just uncovered a gem.

He saw a spark of inspiration when Reyal scored a solo try for the Exiles at the Abu Dhabi Harlequins.

Marsters handed him a debut for the Goa leg of the Asian Sevens Series, and Reyal repaid the faith with three fine tries.

"I think with a bit of space and time on the ball, even against the big sides, I think he can surprise," Marsters said. "He has an ability to change direction at pace, which not many guys can do."

Reyal, 20, grew up in Kandy and after playing cricket in his youth he bucked the trend in the island nation by opting for rugby.

"When I started my higher studies, I dropped cricket as I only wanted to play rugby," he said. "I gave up everything else, because I had rugby training in the morning, then again in the evening. It was all rugby."