Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 February 2020

Dubai Rugby Sevens: Josh Lewsey, Charlotte Caslick, Sophie Shams, Seremaia Bai – players to watch

DUBAI // The leading international players of the men’s HSBC World Series might not start until Friday, but there is still plenty to see when the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens start on Thursday.

1. Josh Lewsey (Conquistadors)

A World Cup winner with England in 2003, Lewsey is turning out for the Mike Ballard Foundation Conquistadors. He will be playing alongside brothers Ed, the UAE scrum-half and former Exeter Chief, and Tom, who played for London Welsh, for the first time.

Who: Conquistadors v Multiplex Barbarians

What: International Social

Where: Pitch 5

When: 2.20pm

2. Charlotte Caslick (Australia women)

The World Sevens Player of the Year in the women’s game will lead Australia’s attempt to retain the Dubai title that they won when they beat Russia in the final last year. As Olympic gold medallists, the Australians are well placed to do so.

Who: Australia v South Africa

What: Women’s World Series

Where: Pitch 1

When: 1.50pm

3. Saki Naisau (Jebel Ali Dragons)

Abu Dhabi Harlequins have made the Gulf Men’s title their own in recent years. Previous to that, though, Jebel Ali Dragons were the region’s dominant sevens force, and they are looking to reclaim that status. The brilliance of their Fijian back Saki Naisau should help.

Who: Jebel Ali Dragons v Dubai Hurricanes II

What: Gulf Men’s League

Where: Pitch 8

When: 5pm

4. Andy Farrell (Joining Jack)

Joining Jack have come to Dubai with an enviable cast of former internationals in recent years, but have yet to win the tournament. Maybe they need to listen to Andy Farrell more. He is part of a coaching staff that just guided Ireland to wins over New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, after all.

Who: Joining Jack v Ladi’s Rainbow Unicorns

What: International Vets

Where: Pitch 3

When: 11.20am

5. Niall Williams (New Zealand women)

The lesser-celebrated Williams sibling, but just as well regarded by her teammates as brother Sonny Bill is to his. Balances being a mother with excelling as an international rugby player for New Zealand, who want to return to the winner’s podium in Dubai.

Who: New Zealand v Fiji

What: Women’s World Series

Where: Pitch 1

When: 4.02pm

6. Sophie Shams (Heartbeat Tigers)

Only just graduated to senior rugby, having turned 17 this month, but the Emirati schoolgirl’s skills have long been known about. A Dubai Sevens winner at age-group level for Dubai Exiles, she is hoping to do the same with Heartbeat Tigers in women’s rugby.

Who: Heartbeat Tigers v Kuwait Scorpions

What: Gulf Women

Where: Pitch 6

When: 6pm

7. Seremaia Bai (J9 Legends)

Waisale Serevi, the Fijian regarded as the greatest of all sevens players, may have hung up the playing boots, but he is still there as coach for J9 Legends. The side representing Joost van der Westhuizen’s charity have recruited another star Fijian, Bai, as they seek to defend their title.

Who: J9 Legends v Cairo Old Crocs

What: International Vets

Where: Pitch 2

When: 9am

8. Sam Bolger (Abu Dhabi Harlequins)

The inexhaustible scrum-half scored a hat-trick on Pitch 1 in last year’s final as Abu Dhabi Harlequins successfully defended their Gulf Men’s League title. They are even stronger this year, but so are their main rivals, too.

Who: Abu Dhabi Harlequins v Dubai Hurricanes

What: Gulf Men’s League

Where: Pitch 7

When: 5.40pm

9. Gareth Cooper (CNCF)

A scrum-half who was capped 46 times for Wales, and was selected by Clive Woodward to tour New Zealand with the British & Irish Lions in 2005. Now 37, he will be helping Christina Noble Children’s Foundation’s challenge in the International Vets.

Who: CNCF v Dubai Redbacks

What: International Vets

Where: Pitch 2

When: 9.20am

10. Alan Knuckey

Not the most celebrated player, but one with more airtime than any other recently. His remarkable, length of the field try, started by an elaborate back-heel chip kick, while playing a UK club match, was captured on film and went viral in cyberspace. He is looking to deploy “The Knuckey” again, playing for The Pilgrims in Dubai this weekend.

Who: Pilgrims v Belfast Social

What: International Social

Where: Pitch 7

When: 1.40pm

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Updated: November 28, 2016 04:00 AM

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