x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Saudi aim to follow the UAE

Although rugby in the UAE is likely to be affected little by the IRB's decision to reconstitute the Arabian Gulf union (AGRFU), the outlook for some neighbouring countries is bleak.

DUBAI // Although rugby in the UAE is likely to be affected little by the IRB's decision to reconstitute the Arabian Gulf union (AGRFU), the outlook for some neighbouring countries is bleak. The game's rulers approved a plan last week to devolve and empower the six nations who currently play under the one banner of the Arabian Gulf. The standard of rugby being played across the Emirates is improving all the time as the large expatriate workforce that supports the game continues to expand.

Saudi Arabia has three rugby clubs. In comparison to the UAE, which has 14 listed clubs, the player base is small but, promisingly, the ratio of nationals playing the game is far higher than it is here. That could be given fresh impetus thanks to the involvement of Prince Sultan bin Faisal al Saud. His interest in the game was first sparked during a holiday to Fiji, and he has been playing prop-forward for Jeddah rugby club. He was part of their Dubai Sevens squad at the weekend, although injury precluded his involvement.

"I used to play on the beach with my brothers and cousins, then I started to train at the rugby club," said Prince Sultan. He has scheduled a meeting with the Ministry of Sport next month, as he hopes to get rugby a part on the syllabus at government schools. "We need the really young kids to start playing in schools, because we are too old. Hopefully we can have a very good team in the future, inshallah," added Prince Sultan, who hopes a full national team can be constituted within two years.

Dave Kinkead, the English club captain of Jeddah, added: "We have mainly been an expat club, but we realise we need a base of nationals. "Expats come, but the people that live there are the ones who will keep the club going." pradley@thenational.ae