x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Missed opportunity for Gulf

For rugby player Chris Gregory, the Asian Five Nations Division One, to be played in Dubai next month, cannot come soon enough.

DUBAI // Chris Gregory, the Dubai Hurricanes captain, has lived through the bad times of Arabian Gulf rugby. For many of the region's top players, the embarrassment of a hefty defeat to New Zealand at the 2006 Dubai Rugby Sevens was more than enough. Enough humiliation at the hands of highly-trained professional players in front of your mates and a few thousands other people. Enough pain. Some of the Gulf's top rugby players made themselves unavailable for international selection after the bleak times, and settled back into the relaxed climes of club rugby. Gregory played on, and witnessed first-hand the revival of the region's elite side. He said failing to win a match at last weekend's World Cup Sevens hurt far more than any of the drubbings of the past, because of the journey the side had made to get there. "The expectations are so much higher now," he said. "It was still a great honour to play for the Gulf before, and we would go out and do as well as possible, but now we go out there with more pride, and more expectations. "When you don't meet those expectations the pain is a lot more heartfelt. You can see it in the guys faces. Before we would say things like, 'Oh, do you remember that tackle I did?' "Now defeat is so much more disappointing. We really should have won against Italy [when the Gulf conceded a decisive, stoppage time try in the pool stage of the World Cup], but it was more enjoyable than it has been." Now, a week on from playing in front of 32,000 people in a home World Cup, Gregory is lost without his Gulf teammates. "This week has been massive come down," added Gregory, who will return to the humdrum of the club scene today when he leads out the Hurricanes against their city rivals, the Dragons in a Super Five tie. "It has been really depressing getting back to the reality of work and I don't know what to do with myself in the evenings now." The Asian Five Nations Division One, a week-long tournament to be played in Dubai next month, cannot come soon enough. Gregory says the prospect of furthering his days with Gulf rugby is "an excuse to stay in the country". He said: "We'll never be as prepared again as we were for the World Cup, but now people have taken this to heart and they want to carry it on. "People have always talked about leaving, and now rugby is an excuse to stay in the country. "Work have been fantastic giving me the time off, and now I have the desire to keep playing for the country." pradley@thenational.ae