x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Flying Fijians to boost UAE rugby side

UAE rugby's emerging national players will be able to draw on some of the best expertise the sevens game has to offer after a memorandum of understanding was signed with the Fiji Rugby Football Union.

UAE's Tim Fletcher battles for yardage as Fiji defenders take him down near the try line during action back in 2011 at the Emirates Airlines Dubai Rugby Sevens.
UAE's Tim Fletcher battles for yardage as Fiji defenders take him down near the try line during action back in 2011 at the Emirates Airlines Dubai Rugby Sevens.

DUBAI // UAE rugby's emerging national players will be able to draw on some of the best expertise the sevens game has to offer after a memorandum of understanding was signed with the Fiji Rugby Football Union.

Filimoni Waqabaca, the Fiji RFU chairman, completed a 24-hour journey from Suva in time for Friday's meeting at the Al Manzil Hotel in Dubai.

The terms of the agreement are likely to mean some of the leading coaches in Fiji will come to the UAE to assist with the development of the game here.

In addition, their sevens national team players who are currently preparing for the World Cup in Moscow will also travel here to share their knowledge.

"It is time for Fiji coaches to make available their services for international rugby," Waqabaca said.

"This opportunity provides that for us and for the UAE it is open for them to come and study how sevens is played.

"Hopefully, they can come and upskill their team in preparation for the Asian Games in 2014. It is a win-win situation for both of us."

Mohammed Falaknaz, the UAE Rugby Federation (UAE RF) chairman, said: "We are very excited to take this step forward with Fiji rugby.

"We are especially excited with the opportunity to enhance the development of our sevens players."

Yousef Shaker, one of the leading Emirati players, said the chance to learn from the flying Fijians will represent part of a dream coming true.

"It is a big thing for us to be able to train with them because we love the Fiji team as they are the kings of rugby," Shaker said.

"We can learn a lot from them and this is our chance to improve our rugby. We can see our dream in four or five years' time to play against Fiji or New Zealand and we will work hard to make it happen. This is our time to show them we can play and to show other countries that we have rugby here, too."

In addition to this arrangement, UAE rugby is likely to profit from an influx of rugby-playing personnel from Fiji, as well as imported knowledge from the Pacific.

The UAE's expatriate workforce will soon be swelled by 300 Fijians, who are set to arrive to work for an international security firm.

Given that rugby is the national passion for Fijians, it is likely many of them will be recruited by domestic rugby clubs to play in their spare time.

While Falaknaz joked at the signing that his organisation are likely to benefit far more from the agreement than their new allies, the Fijians also hope to reap one specific reward, too.

Despite being one of the most successful nations in the short format of the sport, Fiji have never won the Dubai Sevens. "The only thing Fijians know about Dubai is the Sevens," Waqabaca said.

"The fact is we have never won here. We love coming to Dubai but we need to do something more than just play.

"We need to develop the sport, give back to the community for the hospitality they express to us and we look forward to the day when we will lift the cup in Dubai.

"If we can spend more time here we can acclimatise, train and prepare for the tournament."

 

pradley@thenational.ae

 

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