Rugby's theatre of dreams
The region's new home for rugby could be graced by three of the game's most entertaining players when the Sevens World Cup comes around next March, if the Fiji coach, Waisale Serevi, gets his way. Serevi is on the brink of recalling Rupeni Caucaunibuca, the most mercurial talent in the game, to his side. "I wanted him to come to the Dubai Sevens to try to gauge where he is at the moment, then go back home and train," said Serevi.
"He has got a contract [at the French club Agen] now, but he is still interested. He is still asking what his chances are of going to the World Cup. "I told him it was better he keep training then hopefully he can play in the Wellington and San Diego Sevens tournaments." William Ryder, who is deemed by many to be the most thrilling sevens player since Serevi, is likely to return for next year's showpiece in the off-season from playing his club rugby in Japan.
An offer is also on the table for Akuila Uate, the star of Fiji's march to the Rugby League World Cup semi-finals earlier this month, to switch codes. "He was interested, as were a couple of the other players from rugby league, and I told them the door was open to anyone in either league or union," added Serevi. "Uate is a great player, who played very well in the league World Cup. It is up to him."
It is telling that even Fiji already have one eye on the World Cup. The Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens has never been seen as a rehearsal before. However, virtually every administrator or coach involved this time has uttered the words "dry run" at least once in the build up to this weekend. The IRB's representatives are known to be particularly keen to see how well the Dubai Rugby Sevens transfers to its new home, given the haste with which it has been erected.
The paint will probably still be wet on the dressing room walls when the first players arrive at the new venue this morning. The Sevens, which is the catchy new name for the Emirates facility, has taken just 423 days to build. Yet the process has not been without problems. In that time, the construction cost has spiralled way beyond the original estimate. As a consequence of the venue's distance from Dubai, no water or electric utilities were in place when construction began. Underground water pipes were only planted relatively recently, and the initial costs of watering the pitches with sweet water from tankers was huge.
None of today's matches will take place on Pitch One so the majority of social players will miss out on the chance to play in front of the biggest crowds. However, the project is already being acclaimed as a success by those who have been afforded an advanced viewing. Ben Ryan, the England coach, deems it a "cracking facility", while his South African rival Paul Treu says: "I think it will be the same, if not better, than the Exiles."
The IRB Sevens World Series tournament manager, Beth Coalter, believes "players will enjoy probably the best facilities on the circuit". Gary Chapman, the president of Group Services and Dnata, Emirates Group, was the man tasked with delivering the arena. He said: "Just a year ago, when we looked out over the sand dunes, it was difficult to imagine what a spectacular venue it would become. "But we are proud to say the tight deadlines have been met and we are ready to welcome the world."
Updated: November 27, 2008 04:00 AM