x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

National hopes slip away for Dragons centre Rory Binder

The Jebel Ali player has accepted that he will be playing for his club, and not the country, at the Dubai Rugby Sevens.

Rory Binder, the centre, will play for the Jebel Ali Dragons at the Dubai Rugby Sevens.
Rory Binder, the centre, will play for the Jebel Ali Dragons at the Dubai Rugby Sevens.

Rory Binder, the Jebel Ali Dragons centre, is resigned to missing an opportunity to represent the UAE at the Dubai Rugby Sevens next weekend.

The South African-born centre has spent months exploring the chances of getting special dispensation from the International Rugby Board (IRB) to play for the national team.

Binder was one of the Arabian Gulf's outstanding players at last year's Sevens. He qualified for the regional side, having lived in Bahrain for three years, but for the duration of that time he had been employed by a UAE-based company. He moved to Dubai this year and committed to representing the newly formed national team, but time has run out on him to be eligible for the most important sevens competition of the UAE calendar.

"I have committed to playing with my club side at the Sevens now," Binder said. "It has been frustrating trying to get a decision, after months of training with the UAE and having been left behind for three tours" with the UAE sevens to Shanghai, Borneo and Goa.

"It is disappointing to miss out on playing [in the IRB competition], but at least I will get to play with the Dragons."

The UAE's loss may provide a boost for the Dragons, but Shane Thornton, the club's player-coach, acknowledges that Binder should be playing on the highest stage.

"I really feel sorry for him because he is a quality player and he should be playing at that level," Thornton said. "Having said that, I don't mind having him playing for us going in to a sevens weekend."

There is only one chance left open for Binder to play in front of the 40,000 crowd on Pitch One next Saturday - by reaching the final of the Gulf Men's Championship with the Dragons. Form suggests they are the strong favourites to do so, and to reclaim the title which they held for two years before being deposed by the Barrelhouse Yobs 12 months ago.

They have taken full points from the opening two legs of the new UAE Sevens Series and, with Binder in tow, expect to do the same in Abu Dhabi today.

"We have a great team which is well-suited to sevens," said Thornton, the former Arabian Gulf and UAE sevens coach.

"We have not had our full-strength side out so far. In our 15-a-side team we have a pretty sharp backline, which makes it easier to adapt to sevens."

pradley@thenational.ae