A broken foot ruled out the DESC pupil from competing in the Dubai Sevens, but he returned with a bang for the Exiles and is being tipped for a career in the game if he so chooses
Rory Arthur: Injury consigned to the past, Dubai Exiles youngster faces a bright rugby future
A season that was blighted by injury at just the wrong moment ended in a run of triumphs for a Dubai schoolboy in senior men’s rugby.
When Rory Arthur broke a bone in his foot in November in the last tune-up tournament before the Dubai Rugby Sevens, it had a number of effects.
Firstly, it meant he would miss the sevens season's big weekend, and that Dubai English Speaking College’s Gulf Under 19 title-defence would be derailed by the loss of one of their outstanding players.
And it led to more than three months on the sidelines, just as he was on the brink of establishing himself in the men’s first XV at Dubai Exiles.
Despite all that disappointment, he returned in remarkable fashion. The teenage outside-centre made three starts for Exiles at the end of the campaign.
To cap his fine elevation to senior level, his performance in Exiles’ 33-19 win over a touring Gibraltar Select XV on Monday evening even earned praise on the match report on the opposition’s Facebook page.
“A solid effort from Gibraltar but outclassed at times in midfield by the 12/13 Exiles combination,” the report read, referencing Arthur’s partnership with James Crossley.
Despite his youth, the glowing reviews might not be such a shock, given how highly regarded the Scottish 18-year-old has been in schoolboy rugby for some years now.
He has played first-team rugby at DESC for the past three seasons, and trained with Saracens’ academy in the UK in 2016.
Robin Giles, the director of rugby at DESC, believes Arthur could pursue a professional career in the game, and “wouldn’t be surprised” if he featured in the Scotland sevens programme within the coming years.
“He has a lot of potential,” Giles said. “He has been held back in the past couple of years because of niggling injuries. Hopefully now he has put that behind him and we can really see what he can achieve.
“There is something about Rory that is special, and you can’t bottle it. It is not limited by his ability. It is limited by how much he wants it. Knowing Rory, he will be pretty relentless in going forward.”
Apollo Perelini, the former dual-code international, has been impressed by Arthur since he first started training at his skills academy as a Year 10 student.
“He was the new kid in town, and was getting used to the way they play rugby over here, but he did stand out as a very solid player,” Perelini said.
“He was strong in defence and a hard runner. He stands out in men’s rugby in the sense that he looks young – but he doesn’t look out of place in terms of physicality.
“In Dubai, we have been successful with backs. A lot of good backs have left these shores and done well overseas.
“Anything can happen for a player from this age to their mid-20s. There are always opportunities. It is a matter of him taking his opportunity. Has he got potential? Absolutely.”
Arthur’s coaches all list physical power as one of his lead attributes, and the player himself has enjoyed the step up to playing against bigger players in the men’s game.
“It feels great,” Arthur said after the win over Harlequins two weeks ago. “[Bahrain] wasn’t great with it being a loss, but it was still a big experience, and we came back the next week and got the win.
“It is a big step up. There are some big players you come up against, but you have to get used to that playing in men’s rugby.”
Jacques Benade, the Exiles coach, expects his young charge to flourish when he heads back to the UK for university at the start of the next academic year.
“For guys like Rory, who want to go away and play serious senior rugby, I think this an excellent level to play, and to grow from it,” Benade said.
“I am hoping Rory will do really well. He has applied for a few places, and I think there are a few universities that are really chasing him.
“He is such a committed player, he loves learning, and I think he has learned a lot from us this year. It is a different style of rugby to what DESC play, so to get both has been great.”