x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Twickenham test with Harlequins excites Jeremy Manning

The Abu Dhabi Harlequins man is relishing his weekend of action at the World club Sevens, writes Paul Radley.

Jeremy Manning will play in the World Club Sevens this weekend.
Jeremy Manning will play in the World Club Sevens this weekend.

Jeremy Manning, a former professional rugby player turned personal trainer, admits he is starting to get the bug back for the full-time game thanks to his summer guest appearances with London Harlequins' sevens side.

The New Zealander ended a decade in the ranks of the professional game when he moved to Abu Dhabi to start a new life as a fitness instructor last year.

He retained his link to the game via the capital's leading rugby club, first as a player and then when he was appointed the club's head coach.

Having turned down six offers to return to professionalism in the past year, he eventually took up the chance to represent Abu Dhabi Harlequins' London affiliates as a guest in their summer sevens series.

Manning and Patrice Agunda, a Kenya sevens international who plays domestically for another Quins affiliate club, in Nairobi, both had their invitations extended to include this weekend's inaugural World Club Sevens.

It is not the first time Manning will have played at Twickenham. However, he acknowledges he has different emotions now to those he had when he turned out for Newcastle Falcons, his former employers, at the Middlesex Sevens in 2010.

"It is a little bit of a weird feeling going from playing purely amateur rugby in the Middle East back straight into this, but an enjoyable one," the Abu Dhabi playmaker said.

"It has stirred the emotions. I haven't turned my back completely on professional rugby but I am enjoying my time in the Middle East at the moment.

"I don't think I have been out of my depth and the reports I have been getting back are very positive, which is nice to hear, having been out of the pro scene for a year."

After two weeks with the London side playing in the English domestic sevens series, Manning is now part of the squad for the first World Club Sevens, starting this morning.

It is a step into the unknown for all the teams, which includes some of the leading domestic teams from the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, United States and South Africa.

Conor O'Shea, the director of rugby at Harlequins who first made the invite to Manning, thinks the new event is an exciting concept.

"Even though it is the abridged version of the game I think we will learn a lot and we will also get the opportunity to look at a few good young players from overseas and see what they are like," O'Shea said.

Manning is part of a Harlequins side who are aiming to be able to call themselves the first "club world champs", but he also has a longer-term aspiration.

The next editions of the new competition are pencilled in to take place in New York and Rio de Janeiro.

The Abu Dhabi-based New Zealander is hoping to impress enough that he might be invited back to add more stamps in a passport that has been rapidly filling up via his exploits as a sevens tourist.

"All the teams coming to this tournament are looking to become the first club world champs," Manning said.

"None of the sides in our group are going to be easy. I know that ACT Brumbies have some Super 15 players with them, Auckland have some New Zealand and Samoa sevens players and the Russians [Kuban Krasnodar] will be tough.

"I think it will be an amazing tournament and is only going to get bigger and better."

pradley@thenational.ae

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