x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Small crumbs but big hopes with on Emirati rugby recruit

UAE Rugby have high hopes for Abbas, a new recruit who will make his debut at the Shanghai Sevens on the wing for the national team.

With his shaggy hair and long socks pulled way above the knee, a la Thierry Henry or John Terry, Mohammed Abbas looks as though he should be having a trial for a Premier League football club rather than the national rugby team.

It was ever thus in the short history of Emirati rugby players.

UAE Rugby have high hopes for Abbas, a new recruit who will make his debut at the Shanghai Sevens on the wing for the national team.

If he does flower as they hope, it could be a major boon for the game here.

Rugby could do with a visible Emirati hero to persuade the Arabic-speaking community there is life beyond football.

And for all their foibles - a showy dress sense often being one of them - there is evidence to suggest footballers often convert well to the oval ball game.

The England scrum-half Danny Care, for one, switched to rugby after being told - ironically - he was too small for football.

If rugby has to gather the crumbs from under football's table in this country for a while, then that might be no bad thing.

Least of all in Al Ain, where the city's rugby club this week announced a noble plan to invest in indigenous Arab players.

As a one-club city that worships the national football champions, Al Ain is a sporting hub - albeit a slightly myopic one at present.

If rugby can work out a way of stealing a few who fall out of love with football, the prospects could be bright.

pradley@thenational.ae

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