x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Gathercole not ruling out playing for UAE

The veteran prop, who made more appearances for the now disbanded Arabian Gulf, may play for the newly formed national side.

DUBAI // Mark Gathercole, the 43-year-old prop, is not ruling out playing in the first ever UAE international side, having made more appearances for its predecessor, the Arabian Gulf, than anyone else. The Dubai Exiles talisman used to play in the same Harlequins side as England greats like Will Carling and Jason Leonard before moving to the UAE in 1993. His interest was sparked by an article in Rugby World magazine charting the Gulf's initial attempts at qualification for the World Cup. When a former coach of his, who had relocated to Abu Dhabi, then recommended he try it, Gathercole jumped at the chance. Seventeen years later, he is still a fixture in the side. He said that the thrilling 21-19 win over Korea in the final match before the Arabian Gulf disbands may not necessarily be his final outing on the international stage. Gathercole, who is a partner in a firm which manufactures signature swimming pools, said: "The game is in my blood and it is a massive part of my life. "It is hard to walk away. I train hard still, that is what has kept me involved with the Gulf and the Dubai Exiles. I'll take some time out and see what happens. "I said that this would be it and I would retire from rugby. I think that is what I want to do, and that I want to finish it now. "Having played in the first IRB sanctioned international game to be played in the Gulf, on sand against Kenya, to now playing in the last, it is a sad day." pradley@thenational.ae