The quality of the Under 18s competition at the Dubai Rugby Sevens was a boon for the sport here, as it pointed to a junior game which is in rude health.
Home-grown stars of the future shine in youth tournament
DUBAI // One of the main driving forces behind the International Rugby Board's revamp of rugby in the Middle East is the desire to produce more home-grown players through schools.
As such, the quality of the Under 18s competition at the Dubai Rugby Sevens was a boon for the sport here, as it pointed to a junior game which is in rude health.
Schools rugby in the UAE has traditionally been isolated to Dubai, and furthermore to two establishments in particular, English College and Dubai College.
However, this year's youth tournament was won at a canter by the British School al Khubairat (BSAK) in Abu Dhabi.
They conceded just two tries in the competition, and beat English College 40-0 in front of a packed crowd on Pitch One on Saturday afternoon.
The triumph represented an immediate return on the school's hefty investment in sport. Their rugby department is headed by Lyn Jones, the former Wales international who left behind top-level professional rugby in the UK to move to the capital.
An inter-schools competition was started in Abu Dhabi recently, at Jones's recommendation, in a bid to spread awareness of the sport.
"We are trying to do our part in ensuring schools rugby is more than just BSAK, and Lyn is very passionate about that," Paul Coackley, the school's principal, said.
"To be playing in front of that crowd, aged 17 or 18 is an unbelievable experience. We know we are not going to win it every year, but if it is your year it is a real bonus."