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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Dubai Rugby Sevens: Players to watch beyond the World Series

Much of the attention is trained on the men’s HSBC World Sevens Series, but there is also plenty of action in the other tournaments at the Sevens this year

Portia Woodman, widely considered one of the best female rugby players in the world, training at Sheikh Zayed cricket stadium, Abu Dhabi. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Portia Woodman, widely considered one of the best female rugby players in the world, training at Sheikh Zayed cricket stadium, Abu Dhabi. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Portia Woodman (New Zealand women)

The leading point scorer and try scorer at the World Cup in Ireland in the summer. Her spectacular effort in the semi-final of that competition was nominated alongside three from the men’s game for World Rugby try of the year.

First chance to see her: Thursday, Pitch 1, 1.50pm, New Zealand v South Africa

Ben Gollings (Christina Noble)

More World Sevens Series points than anyone else, and a Dubai winner with England in the past, Gollings is back for the first time to play social rugby in the International Vets with a star-laden Christina Noble Children’s Foundation side.

First chance to see him: Thursday, 10.20am, Pitch 3, CNCF v 100 World Legends Project

Ben Gollings, centre, will turn out for Christina Noble Children’s Foundation in the International Vets 10s event. The National
Ben Gollings, centre, will turn out for Christina Noble Children’s Foundation in the International Vets 10s event. The National

Saki Naisau (Jebel Ali Dragons)

Broke Fiji’s defensive line a number of times during Jebel Ali Dragons’ friendly match of scrag on Saturday. Which might have surprised the Olympic gold medallists, but not those who get to see him play regularly in the domestic game.

First chance to see him: Thursday, 4pm, Pitch 7, Jebel Ali Dragons v Abu Dhabi Saracens

Saki Naisau will be in action for Jebel Ali Dragons. Victor Besa for The National
Saki Naisau will be in action for Jebel Ali Dragons. Victor Besa for The National

Mark Cueto (Joining Jack)

A World Cup finalist with England in 2007, the former Sale Sharks wing was the leading try scorer in the history of English rugby’s top division until Tom Varndell overtook him last season. Back with Joining Jack in the International Vets.

First chance to see him: Thursday, 10am, Pitch 7, Joining Jack v 10 Commandments

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Read more

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Jebel Ali Dragons eye the Gulf Men's League trophy

Joe Roff joins Conquistadors for 2017 tournament

Fiji find friendly help from Eagles and Dragons

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Charlotte Caslick (Australia women)

The 2016 women’s sevens player of the year, and the standout figure in Australia’s gold medal win at the first Olympic Games sevens tournament. Back in Dubai as Australia look to avenge last year’s final loss to New Zealand.

First chance to see her: Thursday, 1.06pm, Pitch 1, Australia v Japan

Charlotte Caslick seen here in action for Australia last year. Pascal Guyot / AFP
Charlotte Caslick seen here in action for Australia last year. Pascal Guyot / AFP

Serge Betsen (SBA Pirates)

If players in the International Vets have SBA Pirates on their fixture list, they might want to get their sick notes ready. SBA stands for Serge Betsen Academy. The fearsome 63-cap France flanker will be in the ranks himself. Wince.

First chance to see him: Thursday, 10.20am, Pitch 2, SBA Pirates v Malta Marauders

Barry Dwyer (Abu Dhabi Harlequins)

Harlequins are looking for a fourth successive Gulf Men’s League title this weekend. They will be missing a number of stars from past campaigns, but the still have the pace and sidestepping ability of free-scoring wing Dwyer to call on.

First chance to see him: Thursday, 4pm, Pitch 4, Abu Dhabi Harlequins v Kuwait Scorpions