x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

UAE overlooked for Dubai Sevens

IRB selects 16 higher-ranked teams for November tournament, but development of sport in country will remain priority for UAE Rugby Association.

UAE will not be seen in action at the Dubai Rugby Sevens like they were last year. Mike Young / The National
UAE will not be seen in action at the Dubai Rugby Sevens like they were last year. Mike Young / The National

DUBAI // The senior official for rugby in the UAE insists the progress of the sport in this country will continue unhindered, even though the IRB has ruled out the national team from playing at their own showpiece competition.

The sport's governing body today confirmed a decision which had been expected for some time, by announcing 16 higher-ranked nations will contest the IRB competition at the 2012 Dubai Rugby Sevens at the end of November.

The host side had always been assured entry under the Arabian Gulf union, which formerly governed the game here. However, once the collective union was disbanded, the new single-nation side were given notice that they would no longer be guaranteed a place.

The national team were handed an invitational berth to commemorate their maiden campaign as a competitive side at the end of last year, but were told to prove they were worth their place in future.

A ninth-place finish in last year's Asian Sevens Series, as well as a series of hefty defeats at The Sevens, persuaded the IRB to overlook the fledgling UAE side this year.

However, Mohammed Falaknaz, the chairman of the UAE Rugby Association, said the development of the game will carry on unabated.

"We fully respect and understand the IRB decision as elite performance unions enter a four-year cycle of preparation for the 2016 Olympic Games," Falaknaz said.

"UAE Rugby still has plans to participate annually in the Dubai Sevens and the Asian Sevens Series as part of our ongoing performance development plans. We are still committed in the pursuit of our vision to be prominent and successful in Asian rugby and as part of our strategic development.

"We are currently implementing programmes to expand our player base within the Emirati population, to develop sevens in schools and tertiary institutions and to organise new domestic and regional competitions."

According to the IRB's Mark Egan, there is a clear pathway for re-entry to the game's leading competitions for the UAE.

"While UAE will not be competing in the [Dubai Sevens], the future for rugby in the UAE is bright," Egan said. "The top teams from the Asian Sevens Series have the opportunity to proceed to a qualifying tournament where they will compete against the best-ranked teams from the other five IRB regions to secure a place in the [World Series]."

The national team head to Borneo for the opening leg of the latest Asian Sevens Series this weekend with new incentives to aim for.

"Duncan [Hall, the UAE performance manager] and Wayne Marsters [the Sevens coach] have high expectations for the team after we finished ninth last year," said Renier Els, the new captain.

"There is a lot to play for, with the possibility of qualifying for Hong Kong and there is the World Cup Sevens in Moscow next year, too."

pradley@thenational.ae

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