x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

MacDonald takes stock

Reality is about to bite for Jonny MacDonald. Last weekend, the young full-back lit up the Arabian Gulf's campaign at the Dubai Sevens.

DUBAI // Reality is about to bite for Jonny MacDonald. Last weekend, the young full-back lit up the Arabian Gulf's campaign at the Dubai Sevens. Now the IRB Sevens caravan has moved on to South Africa, but the part-timers who performed for the Gulf are yet again dispersed around the region's rugby outposts. Today, MacDonald, 20, should have been turning our for Abu Dhabi Harlequins in the somewhat more modest surroundings of the Doha Rugby Club. However, last week's exertions have forced him to return to the UK for treatment. He is one of 23 Quins players on the absence list for the top of the table Gulf Premiership clash.

Not for him the 24 hours per day medical assistance afforded to the top IRB Series teams. But he is not complaining. "I used to want to be a professional rugby player, but not so much anymore," she said. MacDonald was born and brought up in Abu Dhabi, where he attended Al Khubairat School. He first started playing rugby when he was three. However, it was his move to St George's boarding school in England, when he was 11 which really fast-forwarded his game.

He was on the books of two major clubs, including Saracens. It was a glimpse of what life as a professional was going to be like, and it was not something he found overly appealing. "When I was with Saracens, it was a 100 per cent mentality. I got a few too many injuries and they let me go " After that, I decided I wanted to enjoy it more. I don't want to be in the gym every day, I like enjoying it. Playing with Abu Dhabi it is all about enjoyment."

In one season with Saracens MacDonald suffered six separate concussions. He did the same on the opening day of competition at The Sevens, knocking himself out in the first game against Kenya, only to bounce back and touch down a second-half try. Playing in the Dubai Sevens marked the realisation of an ambition for MacDonald, who has deferred entry to Cardiff University for a second year in order to commit to the Gulf team.

"It has always been a dream to play out there. I have been coming every year for the last 16," he said. "The fact we came so close to winning against Scotland (they were beaten 19-14), then how well we played against Kenya, shows how far the Arabian Gulf has come. "It was disappointing because of the results. I don't like losing at all. But the progress we have made is tenfold - even since Singapore, where we played a few weeks ago.

"That week in South Africa [where the Gulf received tuition from the Springboks Sevens bosses] really helped us." pradley@thenational.ae