x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Qatari title vindicates IRB's decision

International Rugby Board's decision to disband the Arabian Gulf is taking fruit as Malik al Mubarak became the first Qatari national to score a try.

DUBAI // The International Rugby Board's decision to disband the Arabian Gulf in a bid to attract more Arabs to the game was given its biggest fillip yet on Friday when Malik al Mubarak became the first Qatari national to score a try in international rugby.

The decision to delist the anomalous Gulf union as IRB members last year was motivated, in part, by a desire to attract more indigenous players to the sport.

The UAE were the first of the former Gulf union members to go it alone when the Asian Five Nations started last month and they have fielded two Emiratis in games this tournament.

Further down the Asian rugby ladder, Qatar fielded a side including four nationals as they secured the Division IV title with a final win over Lebanon.

The side, put together at five weeks notice and comprised mainly of expatriates, qualified under the IRB's three-year residency criteria, but the Qataris played a key role in the win.

"I'm really happy that I got this try and it helped us win the cup," said al Mubarak, whose second-half try paved the way for a 29-14 win. The rapid wing was a handball player before being encouraged to try rugby ahead of the 2006 Asian Games sevens tournament in Doha.

The native contingent of the Qatari squad had barely played the game since before being coaxed back to join the nation's first official international XVs side.

"There was no support for us," said Abdulaziz al Dosari, a former volleyball player who played hooker for the Qatar side.

"Now they know we have won the cup, and I will tell all my friends to come and play rugby."