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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 September 2018

UAE's leading rugby clubs to use women's World Cup success to boost sevens series

But teams in region are also cautious about chances of game expanding here because of economic climate.

Clubs, such as Abu Dhabi Harlequins, in red and green, and Dubai Hurricanes are eager to capitalise on success of the women's World Cup. Geraint Jones for The National
Clubs, such as Abu Dhabi Harlequins, in red and green, and Dubai Hurricanes are eager to capitalise on success of the women's World Cup. Geraint Jones for The National

The UAE’s leading rugby clubs hope to see a boost in participation in the women’s game on the back of World Cup which set new records for numbers of viewers worldwide.

However, teams in the region are cautious about the chances of the game expanding here because of the economic climate.

Many of the biggest clubs in the UAE have reported financial losses this summer, and have seen a variety of top players leave, including from their female sections.

The seven-round, cross-border women’s sevens season is still over a month away from starting.

With a large majority of players employed in education, teams have been starting to see numbers at training increasing over the past week, ahead of the new school term.

Andrew McMillan, the new coach of league champions Abu Dhabi Harlequins, said he hopes his side can match their achievements of last season, both in terms of playing numbers and on-field success.

“Hopefully we can follow on from last year,” McMillan said.

“We had more than 40 girls playing, and managed to put out three teams consistently for every tournament. We had really good numbers and hopefully that will back up this season.”

Also from Paul Radley:

World Rugby hopes to capitalise on the success of the World Cup in Ireland, which broke a number of broadcast records for the women’s game.

According to the game’s governing body, a new tournament record of a peak audience of 3.2 million tuned into France 2 for the France v England semi-final.

A peak of 2.65 million watched the thrilling final, a 41-32 for New Zealand over England, when it was shown live on free-to-air television in the UK.

That represented the biggest audience for a Women’s World Cup final, and almost half of the audience for the men’s final in the UK at RWC 2015.

The tournament was shown on OSN in the UAE. Whether that will cause a discernible spike in interest here remains to be seen, according to McMillan.

“It is hard to say, because the majority of players in our team are in the education system and have been away,” he said.

“We have had a few emails from people who are keen to come down, and I’d like to think that is in direct response to the World Cup.”

Rugby in UAE:

Flavio Santos, the new coach of Dubai Hurricanes, the Dubai Rugby Sevens winners, said a number of his side’s leading players have also left.

However, he has set them the goal of reaching the final in each competition they enter, as they bid to topple Harlequins at the summit of the domestic game.

“I am just getting to know the players and they are getting to know me,” Santos said.

“I coached Brazil’s ladies for 10 years. We came from scratch to a World Cup, which was pretty awesome.

“Here it is about skills and fitness, and there are some challenges I think I am going to face. I was impressed with what I saw at my first training, and I think we will put up a competitive side.”

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