x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

UAE improve at Borneo Rugby Sevens but fall short of target

But side's hopes of featuring in Dubai Sevens now lie with IRB benevolence.

UAE captain Tim Fletcher is tackled during the match against Malaysia in Borneo.
UAE captain Tim Fletcher is tackled during the match against Malaysia in Borneo.

The UAE sevens team have been left hoping for benevolence from the International Rugby Board (IRB), after finishing ninth in the HSBC Asian Sevens Series.

The game's ruling body has yet to rule on whether the UAE team, for whom this series has been a first competitive engagement, will be invited to compete alongside the world's sides at December's Dubai Rugby Sevens.

The players had been working to a rough estimate that a place in the top six in the series might be enough to suggest to the IRB that they merit a place in their home tournament.

They fell below that aspiration, however, due mainly to a poor display in the opening leg of the series, at the Shanghai Sevens.

They bettered that performance considerably to finish seventh in the Borneo Sevens yesterday, but that gave them an overall standing in the two-tournament series of ninth.

The improved display was a credit to those players who made the trip, given the troubled build-up.

Shane Thornton, the coach, was unable to get time off from his new job to travel, while Stephan Imbert, the Dubai Frogs fly-half, also had to miss out at the last minute due to work commitments.

The 11-man tour squad, which included the temporary coach/tour manager Sean Hurley, was further denuded on day two of the competition by injuries to two players.

Mohanned Shaker, the leading Emirati player, suffered suspected medial ligament damage, while Murray Strang, the Abu Dhabi Harlequins stand-off, strained a hamstring.

The remaining nine men included Stephen Cooper, the former Arabian Gulf captain, playing his first tournament back after breaking his hand twice last year.

Given that backdrop, Tim Fletcher, the captain, was delighted with how his team had fared, especially in beating Korea, the Shanghai Sevens winners, in the seventh-place play-off.

"We have come out of the tournament quite positively," Fletcher, the Jebel Ali Dragons full-back, said.

"We beat the winners of the last tournament and played really well, so it was definitely a step up for our guys. We are very happy."

Hurley, who had recovered from the shoulder and groin injuries which kept him out of the first leg of the series, was pleased with the improvement the side had made in Borneo.

"We haven't achieved our goal of top six, but we didn't leave anything out on the pitch," Hurley, the Dragons utility back, said.

"Forget about the results, it is about the rugby you play, and we have come such a long way since Shanghai.

"We were getting beaten by 25 and 30 points there, but now we can see things improving, which is what we want as a team. It means we are on the way to where we want to be."

pradley@thenational.ae


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