x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Healey's touch still intact

A fitter and lean former England scrum-half shows no signs of fatigue in his first over-35 charity game couple of hours after landing in Dubai.

DUBAI // Austin Healey set aside his dancing shoes and relocated his rugby boots with impressive results as he made a sparkling cameo for Christina Noble on the opening day of the Dubai Rugby Sevens. The former England scrum-half only landed in the UAE at 8am, but was on the pitch in time for the start of the all-star charity side's second fixture, at 11.40am. With his former Leicester and England teammates Will Greenwood and Leon Lloyd on the sidelines as non-playing cheerleaders, Healey was swiftly back into the old routine. He scored the opening try against Shahrdary Tabriz with his first touch of the ball, and proceeded to successfully kick the conversion from out wide with his weaker left-foot. It was a procession from then on, and the former British Lion also dotted down the final score to set the seal on a 53-0 rout for the defending Internationals Vets champions.

Healey is playing in the over-35s competition for the first time, after missing last year's Sevens in order to compete in the UK TV show Strictly Come Dancing. "I'm a bit fatigued but I had a bit of a sleep and it was good to get into it," said Healey. "I couldn't make it out last year because of Strictly, but I am glad to be back. I'm looking forward to the competition heating up and hopefully staying fit throughout it." It is a slimline version of the Healey who played 51 times for England until 2006. He lost weight to compete on Strictly, and he is reaping the dividends in rugby's speediest format. "The fitness side is not too bad for me because I am down to 12 stone, which is really light," he added.

"I'm small after the dancing so I can run around, but because I have a bad back, shoulder and knee it is a matter of staying fit so I can run around. "I was practising nine hours a day, so in terms of longevity it was really hard, but the intensity was not quite as high as rugby. "Luckily I have not had to be quite at full pace. Hopefully I don't have to go anywhere near it." @Email:pradley@thenational.ae