x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Jebel Ali Dragons continue to dominate but Shane Thornton's fitness still a doubt

Player-coach is surplus to requirements with the UAE rugby union club side in great form in the sevens format.

Jebel Ali Dragons, in blue, have been in great form in the sevens format. Jake Badger for The National
Jebel Ali Dragons, in blue, have been in great form in the sevens format. Jake Badger for The National

With their well-oiled sevens machine rumbling inexorably on, the Jebel Ali Dragons have only one major concern ahead of next weekend's main event, namely the fitness of their player-coach Shane Thornton.

Thornton, a sevens specialist, has barely played this season, as he could not find space for himself in a richly talented Dragons backline during their triumphant UAE Premiership XVs campaign.

When he did play, in the opening leg of the two-week UAE Sevens Series, he suffered an ankle injury which may preclude him from playing at the Dubai Rugby Sevens.

He faces a fitness test this week to determine whether he will be able to play a part in the Dragons' title defence.

Even without him, the country's leading sevens outfit have been unbeatable so far this season in the abbreviated format.

Having won their home competition a week earlier, they clinched the domestic sevens series when they defeated Dubai Hurricanes in the final at the Al Ain Amblers' ground today.

"The guys played really well again today, even though there were a few new caps in there, and another win really helps us build towards Dubai," Thornton said.

Hareb Al Azri made a try-scoring return to his former club as part of an all-Emirati UAE Shaheen side who are fine-tuning their preparations for the big event next weekend.

"[The Dubai Sevens] will be another step up for the team, but to be competitive at this stage of their development is a good sign," said Wayne Marsters, the Shaheen coach.

pradley@thenational.ae

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