x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Pioneer Rahma wants selection for Dubai Rugby Sevens

Saracens player has struggled with injuries, but has battled back into Shaheen team, and sees it as the last chance before UAE have to qualify.

DUBAI // When Mohammed Hassan Rahma went under the surgeon's knife for a fourth time to repair a wrecked knee, he doubted whether he would ever return to a rugby field at all.

The fact he has enjoyed an injury-free return to the game this season, three years after becoming the first Emirati to play representative rugby at an international tournament, has been pleasurable enough.

Now, with two weeks to go until the best part of 40,000 people pack the scaffolding stands at the Dubai Rugby Sevens, he is allowing himself to dream a little more.

Rahma has been pitched into the UAE Shaheen side, a development squad of Emirati players, for this weekend's Goa Sevens.

He knows it is the last chance to impress before the final selections are made for the senior sevens squad for the most important weekend of the country's rugby calendar.

"I am very keen to show them what I have got," Rahma said.

"I would like to make the team for the Dubai Rugby Sevens, especially as it is the last tournament before the UAE have to qualify to play in it next season."

Rahma was a try-scoring member of a pioneering group of Emirati players who first played in the Local Social competition at the 2005 Sevens.

The Shaheen squad finds its roots in that Dubai Falcons team, and, even though he has spent so much time away from the sport, Rahma knows he will be touring with some old friends this weekend.

"It took me such a long time to get back," he said. "Rugby has changed so quickly, and to have a UAE development team is very impressive.

"It was great to see how far the guys had stepped up their game when we played at [Friday's] Jebel Ali Sevens. The style of game was totally different to when I played before."

Rahma plays domestic rugby with the Abu Dhabi Saracens in the UAE Conference, and he will become the first player from the newly formed club to play at an international representative tournament.

Brett Bowie, the Saracens captain, believes Rahma's speed across the ground will make him a threat in rugby's abbreviated format.

"I'd say he's better suited to sevens than he is XVs, because he doesn't need much space to zip through," Bowie said.

"He is not afraid of physicality, but the amount of gas he has got and the quality of his footwork - as with a lot of Emirati guys - is what is really impressive.

"If he gets a chance to run, he will be gone. There are not that many players who will be able to run him down, I'm sure of that."

pradley@thenational.ae