x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

The united colours of Cambridge High School rugby team

Despite rugby not being a big sport in their respective countries, several Asian nationalities made up the Cambridge school side at an under 16 tournament.

Cambridge High School had players from different countries in action during an Abu Dhabi Under 16 tournament this month.
Cambridge High School had players from different countries in action during an Abu Dhabi Under 16 tournament this month.

ABU DHABI // Cambridge High School boasts an extremely diverse rugby teams.

"We have Indians, Sri Lankans, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Syrians, one Kiwi, a South African, some from Sudan, Yemen and we have a couple of locals as well," Graham Murphy, their teacher and coach, said.

"So most of the team are made up from players who come from backgrounds with no rugby tradition at all, which is great."

Murphy, from Northern Ireland, watched his team beat Raha School 10-0 in their first match on a full-sized rugby pitch at the Abu Dhabi Under 16 tournament at Zayed Sports City earlier this month.

"If you are in the UK, rugby is on television all the time, what with the domestic leagues and Six Nations," Murphy said. "You don't see rugby on TV here, unless you subscribe to a satellite channel, and a lot of these kids had never even seen a game, never mind picked up a rugby ball.

"The most difficult thing, at the start, was getting the physicality aspect of rugby over to the guys at the start, as it is completely different to anything they have been used to."

Bilal Passela, a 15-year-old Sri Lankan, is one player for whom rugby is not much of a sport in his homeland but who now can't get enough.

"We don't have a lot of big, strong guys in Sri Lanka so rugby is not that popular," he said. "The other schools have guys who come from rugby countries and that made last year, my first with the team, really difficult, but we have really improved."

Bangladeshi Mohammed Miraj, also 15, has turned his back on his country's most popular sport to put his body on the line on the rugby field.

"I think I am the only Bangladeshi who doesn't play cricket," he said. "I like physical stuff that rugby gives you and it's a far more active sport. In cricket, you just stand there and hit the ball, at most you run around the outfield.

"But rugby has you moving all the time and it's great to play."

Ghaith Ahmed, from Yemen, was only introduced to the game two years ago. "I feel unique because I'm the only person from Yemen who plays rugby. It's nothing from where I come from," he said.

The players have improved beyond recognition since the team first came together three years ago at Under 13 level.

Murphy said: "A few years ago there were no league, but now we have good tournaments and the competition is fierce. The guys should be proud of how good they've become."

ncameron@thenational.ae


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