x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Four-nation tournament to assist UAE rugby development

Hong Kong, Kenya and Brazil is discussions with UAE RA to play in a competition in Dubai.

A proposed four-nation international tournament, to be played in Dubai after December's Rugby Sevens concludes, would provide the perfect platform for the developing national team, according to Sean Hurley, the longest-serving active Gulf rugby player.

Discussions have taken place to stage a competition involving Hong Kong, Kenya and Brazil at The Sevens, Dubai, as the UAE Rugby Association (UAE RA) attempt to improve the standard of the elite game here.

At present, the only competitive international rugby matches for UAE players are in the annual HSBC Asian Five Nations, which follows straight after the domestic season.

Despite relatively modest preparations for that tournament last season, they still managed to finish third.

The UAE RA have been actively seeking ways to close the gap on Hong Kong, the leading amateur nation in Asia, as well as the continent's main rugby power, the World Cup-bound Japanese.

Inspired by the fact more than 1,000 people went to watch the Asian Five Nations match against Japan at The Sevens, the game's administrators set about attempting to bring more Test rugby here.

"For the Asian Five Nations, that tournament will be really valuable," Hurley said of the proposed competition.

"The timing is perfect. We want to benchmark ourselves against Hong Kong. We felt [last season] that we could have done with three or four matches earlier in the year to benchmark where we were at.

"We can start that now. We need to start preparation for that tournament in the next four weeks, and it can't just be a knocked together tournament."

The most pressing concern for the governing body, if the competition does come to pass, will be the appointment of a successor to Bruce Birtwistle, the popular former head coach who relinquished his post at the end of last season.