x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Inter-Arabian Gulf rugby union tournament planned to fuel interest in region

The governing body for the game here have applied to the IRB to run a tournament also involving Lebanon, Iran and Saudi Arabia during the UAE Premiership grand final weekend.

The UAE Shaheen side would participate in the four-nation competition. Jeff Topping / The National
The UAE Shaheen side would participate in the four-nation competition. Jeff Topping / The National

DUBAI // The UAE Rugby Association hope to aid the growth of the sport among Arab nationals in West Asia by way of a new four-nation, inter-Arabian Gulf competition starting this season.

UAERA officials met with Bernard Lapasset, the International Rugby Board chairman, in March with a proposal to help invigorate the development of the game among the indigenous community in the region.

The governing body for the game here have applied to the IRB to run a tournament also involving Lebanon, Iran and Saudi Arabia during the UAE Premiership grand final weekend, starting on November 9.

"This suits our pathway towards Asian Games qualification," said Ian Bremner, the chief executive of the UAERA.

"We particularly want to try to get sevens into the West Asian Games.

"It is in the Asian Games, but not the West Asian Games.

"The IRB have encouraged us to take the lead with that, and these are the first steps towards that."

The UAE would be represented in the inter-Gulf tournament by its exclusively Emirati Shaheen side, which has already had a taste of international competition via a three-match series against Afghanistan, last year.

Rugby's bosses here are aiming to increase the number of nationals playing the game with a view to future involvement in the Asian Games, as well as the Olympics.

Four Emiratis played in the full UAE sevens side on their Borneo Sevens tour at the weekend.

"It is a stepping stone as we are trying to organise appropriate level fixtures," Duncan Hall, the UAE rugby performance manager, said of the new competition.

A UAE representative sevens side will play in the International Men's competition at the Dubai Rugby Sevens at the end of November, having been omitted from the IRB World Series tournament.

pradley@thenational.ae

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