x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Fitness issues for last Arabian Gulf squad

The 12-man selection draws on players based in six different countries – Oman, Bahrain and the UAE, as well as Wales, England and Ireland.

The Arabian Gulf, in red, takes on the United States during a friendly match at The Sevens stadium in Dubai on November 29, 2010.
The Arabian Gulf, in red, takes on the United States during a friendly match at The Sevens stadium in Dubai on November 29, 2010.

DUBAI // If the wisdom of the International Rugby Board's decision to disband the Arabian Gulf union and empower the nations to form their own teams was ever in doubt, the composition of the last squad ever to represent the region fully supports the point.

This weekend, at the Dubai Rugby Sevens, the Gulf will compete in their final tournament before being de-listed as a member of the IRB. From January, a UAE side represented solely by players in the Emirates will take over the Gulf's place in the IRB standings.

The regional side named their squad for the Sevens yesterday. The 12-man selection draws on players based in six different countries - Oman, Bahrain and the UAE, as well as Wales, England and Ireland.

One of those, Taif al Delamie, the Dublin-based Omani national, faces a fitness test on a shoulder injury before he can take up his place in the squad.

If he does miss out, he will be replaced by another overseas-based player, Khaled Helal, who has flown back from Cairo where he is in his first year of university.

Given that rugby in the Gulf has a meagre budget, such travel costs were becoming unfeasible.

"This year more than any before, the majority of the team is based outside of Dubai, so logistically its been a good challenge to get the guys training, to keep everyone motivated and to come together for a couple of training weekends," said Sean Hurley, the captain.

"It's been a challenge to make sure everything possible has been done to prepare the guys, physically, mentally and nutritionally so we can run out on to our home field successful."

Thanks to their sponsors, Saint Gobain PAM, Hurley and his side were able to fly to Australia's Gold Coast to play in a tournament a fortnight ago.

However, they are playing catch-up on their better-funded rivals this weekend, and as such have scheduled a variety of friendly matches this week. Yesterday they took on the United States at The Sevens, with Jason Voyce providing the lone score in a defeat for the home side.

pradley@thenational.ae