x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Timely return of Wayne Marsters as new UAE rugby manager

Following stint in Iran, former Arabian Gulf coach returns with task to manage UAE.

Wayne Marsters is a popular figure in UAE rugby, having captained the Abu Dhabi Harlequins and was director of rugby at the Dubai Exiles.
Wayne Marsters is a popular figure in UAE rugby, having captained the Abu Dhabi Harlequins and was director of rugby at the Dubai Exiles.

Wayne Marsters, the new UAE rugby manager, signed off his final duty in Tehran at 7pm on Wednesday with a debrief on the recent performances of the Iran women’s team.

By lunchtime yesterday he was already on to his next mission improbable: planning ways to spread the word about rugby among Emiratis.

After a year spent as the technical director and head coach of Iran rugby, the New Zealander says he feels like he is returning home with his new assignment.

“The UAE is in my heart, having played and coached here previously,” Marsters said. “I am keenly aware and passionate about the responsibility I have to spread the rugby [message] to a wider, more diverse audience, especially our Emirati community.”

Marsters served as a successful captain of the Abu Dhabi Harlequins, as coach of the Arabian Gulf, and director of rugby at the Dubai Exiles in the recent past.

His remit, a large part of which is to work out ways to attract indigenous players to the sport, will hardly be helped by the departure of Ghaith Jalajel, the UAE Rugby Association’s rugby development officer.

Jalajel, a Jordanian international, who played in an Exiles first team coached by Marsters two seasons ago, has been relieved of his duties, leaving the Association with no Arabic speakers with rugby experience.

A command of Arabic is a rare commodity in the rugby coaching community here, and Jalajel is likely to be in demand among clubs who are serious about promoting the game to Emiratis. Abu Dhabi Harlequins are already understood to have approached him about joining them.

“Staying involved in the game is a priority for me,” Jalajel said.

“The numbers of local children who have been introduced to the game has increased massively, and having Emiratis playing regularly at clubs like Toa Dubai and Dubai Wasps is excellent.”

Marsters will take caretaker charge of both the UAE sevens and 15s sides until the appointment of a performance manager.

His first competitive action could be in overseeing the UAE’s maiden appearance at a Dubai Rugby Sevens in December, with the International Rugby Board set to make a final decision on the country’s inclusion in the coming days.

pradley@thenational.ae