x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Landmark day for UAE team

The UAE will become a recognised entity for the first time in rugby when an Emirati national team compete at the Arabian Sevens Challenge.

Taif Al Delamie in action for the Arabian Gulf team.
Taif Al Delamie in action for the Arabian Gulf team.

DUBAI // The UAE will become a recognised entity for the first time in rugby tomorrow when an Emirati national team compete at the Arabian Sevens Challenge. The timing is neat, as it provides a glimpse of the future, just before the soon-to-be disbanded Arabian Gulf side play at the World Cup Sevens for the first, and last, time next weekend.

The UAE Rugby Association, an Emirati run body, was officially recognised by the General Authority of Youth and Sports Welfare last week. It will become a forerunner for when the Arabian Gulf Rugby Football Union (AGRFU) is reconfigured, allowing its constituent members to form their own national federations at the end of 2010. The IRB have ordered an overhaul of the way rugby is run in the region. With Dubai and Abu Dhabi major hubs for the game, the UAE is seen as the best placed of the GCC nations to assume the Gulf's membership at the start of 2011.

At that point, the raft of expatriate players who are qualified to play for the Gulf will be available for selection for the new UAE side. The game's ruler have detailed a West Asia project manager, Matthew Oakley - who knows the area well having played and officiated here in the past - to smooth the path to change. He will be based in Dubai for the next three years, "overseeing governance transition and the creation of individual governing bodies to take the game to the next level".

He said: "I'm here to blend the rugby administration expertise that is already here with the Emiratis that want to be involved at the senior level to try and ensure as smooth a transition as possible. You could call it a rebranding. To take the game to the next level and to try to grow." @Email:pradley@thenational.ae The idea of "rebranding" is particularly resonant, as nationals are more likely to align themselves with their own nation, rather than the anomalous entity of the Arabian Gulf.