x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Keenan to provide inside track

The assistant coach of the Arabian Gulf sevens side is ready to turn down playing professionally in order to stay in Dubai.

DUBAI // Charlie Keenan, the assistant coach of the Arabian Gulf sevens side, is ready to turn down the chance to return to the professional playing ranks in order to stay in Dubai. The former Boroughmuir winger, who was a mainstay of the Scotland sevens side, was hired by the Gulf union at the end of last year to act as a fitness advisor to the World Cup squad. He revealed he has had offers to return to the playing field in both France and Scotland, but wants to continue what he has started in the UAE. He said: "Long-term, I would like to stay in Dubai. I like it here, am quite happy, but it is an unknown what opportunities will come up [after this weekend's World Cup]."

Keenan is one of the few people involved at the tournament with a knowledge on the Gulf's pool stage opponents, Italy. The Italians rarely send a team to sevens events and therefore represent an unknown quantity. Keenan spent a year playing for Gran Parma, the Italian club side, and so is well qualfied to claim that the Gulf should not encounter too many problems when they meet the Italians on Friday.

He said: "Italian rugby is actually fully professional at the top level, which not everyone knows. There is a sevens strength there, but the standard is not really that good. "It gets better when they invite teams over, which they have been doing for the last few years, trying to produce better sevens players. "Italy is a real unknown. I'm hoping they keep all their players for the Six Nations."

pradley@thenational.ae