Emiratis selected but Homayoun and Rahma face a tough test against Fiji, Samoa and Argentina.
UAE duo to play with 'honour and pride' for their country
DUBAI // Two Emiratis will play World Sevens Series rugby for the first time after Cyrus Homayoun and Mohammed Hassan Rahma were selected in the UAE squad for this weekend's Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens.
The duo are among the certainties in the 12-man squad, which was still being pared down last night after illness, availability and policy issues clouded the selection process.
Quihen Marais, the 18 year old from Al Ain, has been ill this week. Rama Chand, whose chances of playing international rugby are limited because he is unable to travel abroad at present, had been told he was playing, but may now have to step down.
It is believed some members of the Rugby Association board want an extra player to be elevated from the UAE Shaheen development side in Chand's place. However, the confusion should not detract from Rahma's achievement. He has made a remarkable rise from being a novice player in the Local Social competition to the world series stage in the space of six years.
A former football goalkeeper, he started playing at the suggestion of friends, and was part of the first Emirati side, the Falcons, to play at the Dubai Sevens.
Going from beginner to full international in the space of six years is remarkable enough, but he has also spent most of the past two years out with a knee injury which nearly caused him to give up the sport.
"It is a dream come true," Rahma, the Abu Dhabi Saracens wing, said. "When I first played in 2005, I was looking at the main pitch thinking, 'I'm never going to play there, I'm not going to make it, all these other people have been playing since they were kids'.
"The country has done so much for me, it is time for me to give something back. I want to put some scores on the board."
Rahma will try to catch the eye of his hero, the former England player, Jason Robinson, who will be at this weekend's tournament on a sponsor's invite. He once trained with Robinson, when he went on an exchange to Sale Sharks while playing for the Falcons.
"[Rahma] was always the most gifted out of all the UAE nationals that I coached," John Mamea-Wilson, who set up the 2005 Falcons side for Emiratis, said.
"As soon as I saw him I knew he was going to develop into a player that would understand the technical side and the ethics involved to match it with the expats. "It is great to see him back in the set-up and I'm excited to see him play this weekend."
Wayne Marsters, the UAE coach, said: "It is good for him to be back after knee surgery.
"Mo has been part of the system before with the Arabian Gulf, having toured with them for tournaments and training camps, so he knows the system well."
Homayoun, 25, has played on the main pitch twice before at a Dubai Rugby Sevens, in the finals of the schools competition with Dubai College. "I was very proud, honoured and excited to be selected," Homayoun, who first started playing rugby at school aged 14, said. "The nerves didn't come until we saw the draw."
The national squad watched the draw for this weekend's competition live on television together, during a break in training on Saturday. The UAE have been pitched into a daunting group with two former world series winners, Fiji and Samoa, as well as Argentina.
Homayoun, who, along with Ali Mohammed, was the first Emirati to play international XVs rugby for the UAE earlier this year, is the latest off a prolific production line at Dubai College.
"He has a bagful of skill," Andy Jones, the director of sport at the school, said. "He was a basketball player when we got him, so he had terrific handling skills.
"Because of his ability to read the game, he was kind of guy who fitted in everywhere, and he has matured into an all round player."