x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Trainee pilot earns his wings with Al Ain Amblers

Hareb Al Azri, who is learning to be a pilot, is the latest Emirati player to make the grade at the club.

Hareb Al Azri plays on the wing for Al Ain Amblers.
Hareb Al Azri plays on the wing for Al Ain Amblers.

A student pilot who formerly played junior football for Al Ain is emerging as the latest prospect from the unlikely rugby breeding ground that is the Amblers rugby club.

Despite their struggles on the field this term, the Amblers, who are last placed in the Premiership, are obviously doing something right.

At the end of last year, Quihen Marais, a South African expatriate who was raised in the city, became the first player from the club to play international rugby for the UAE.

Hareb Al Azri, who will line up on the wing for the Amblers in their Premiership match with Toa Dubai today, has already earned representative recognition, too.

The Emirati wing, who was born and raised in the Garden City, was handed a place in the developmental UAE Shaheen team for the Bangkok Sevens earlier this month.

"Rugby is not seen as a big thing [among Emiratis], as I don't think people think they will get anywhere with it," Al Azri, 21, said.

"Al Ain has big support behind them, and everyone looks up to them. They class it as a traditional game. Football is part of the UAE, and that is not really seen to be the case with rugby.

"[However] more people are getting interested in rugby, and if the game can get more exposure among locals, I think it will pick up pretty quick."

Having done a rugby coaching course as part of his physical education studies, Al Azri is well versed in the rudiments of a sport which is alien to most of his compatriots. It is hoped he might become a trailblazer for his club.

"We have high hopes for our Emirati members and they are growing as a fully integrated part of the club," Kit Philp, the Amblers chairman, said.

It is a compliment to Al Azri's talent for wing play that he was originally mistaken for one of Al Ain's Fijian contingent by the UAE management.

Wayne Marsters, the UAE rugby manager, saw him playing in a club sevens match, and thought a break he made was befitting of a player of vastly more experience.

The winger immediately impressed with his commitment, as well, when he arranged for some of his pilot exams to be deferred so he could play for the UAE development side in Thailand.

"He has been a big asset for the Shaheen side," Marsters said. "He is very easy to coach and picks things up really quickly."