x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

School's rugby event could evolve into 'World Cup'

Emirates Airline Middle East Schools Festival expect to expand next year.

Dubai College, in white, are playing in the tournament.
Dubai College, in white, are playing in the tournament.

DUBAI // The organisers of the first Emirates Airline Middle East Schools Festival hope the embryonic competition will come to resemble a "World Cup" of schools rugby in the future.

The inaugural competition has suffered some teething problems. Home hopes of success this weekend are likely to be severely hindered by the school holidays, for example.

However, the presence in Dubai of two of the UK's leading rugby institutions, Filton College and Truro College, is a sign of things to come, according to Jim Fitzsimons, the general manager of The Sevens.

"The intention is, over the course of a few years, building the under 18 competition into a type of a World Cup," said Fitzsimons, who revealed he has had interest from schools in South Africa, New Zealand and Australia for next year's tournament.

"I think this tournament will double in size, if not more, next year. It has been a challenge getting it off the ground, but it is going to be an annual tournament."

As if facing the likes of Filton and Truro was not daunting enough, the UAE's representation has been denuded by the school holidays.

Even Dubai College, the most successful school for the sport in this country, have struggled, to the extent they have had to pull their sides out of the under 14s and 16s competitions.

The senior team will be missing a variety of the players who have played a key role in another season of success.

"I think this tournament has potential," said Andy Jones, the director of sport at Dubai College. "It is the first tournament, and hopefully we will see it grow and become something far bigger in the future."

pradley@thenational.ae

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