x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

UAE rugby: With gains come growing pains

Mohammed Abbas impresses with his natural ability and but his inexperience trips him up at the moment.

UAE national sevens coach Wayne Marsters says the pace Mohammed Abbas brings to the side is greatly appreciated, and that he has natural ability.
UAE national sevens coach Wayne Marsters says the pace Mohammed Abbas brings to the side is greatly appreciated, and that he has natural ability.

 

Old football habits continue to die hard for Mohammed Abbas, the new UAE winger, as he was sent off for a deliberate trip against Hong Kong at the start of day two at the Shanghai Sevens.

It was an ominous portent for the national sevens team, who proceeded to suffer a chastening day all round in the second leg of the Asian Sevens Series.

After heavy defeats to the eventual winners Hong Kong and, more worryingly, Sri Lanka, the UAE ended up in eighth place in the 10-team competition.

Abbas, a former semi-professional footballer, has quickly become one of the brightest prospects in UAE rugby following his conversion to the sport last season. The management of the national sevens team had to delay his competitive debut by two weeks, as the opening leg of this year's series coincided with an exam for the university student.

He wasted little time in impressing in China this weekend, though, and his raw talent was clear to see on the opening day of competition in Shanghai, when he ran in a try from long distance with his first touch of the ball in international rugby. He betrayed his inexperience on the second morning of the event, however, when he dangled out a foot and tripped a Hong Kong attacker.

The subsequent red card left his side down to six men for the majority of the game, and a 42-0 defeat ensued.

"There was not much room for doubt about it, but Mohammed is learning the game and it was a natural reaction," said Wayne Marsters, the sevens coach.

"It wasn't malicious or intentional, it was just the reaction of a winger used to playing football who is used to sliding the foot out when someone is going outside of you.

"Everyone realised that was down to his inexperience.

"He has lots of raw potential, but this is a learning curve for him."

Other than the second-day glitch, Marsters said he was highly impressed by Abbas's baptism on the international stage, and said: "He adds another dimension because of his pace, which is something we have not really had a lot of before.

"It is nice to get the ball wide and know you are in with a shot when he gets the ball.

"He also made a very good cover tackle in his first game.

"He is not backward in coming forward and he has that out-and-out speed, which are good attributes to have as a novice rugby player." Duncan Hall, the performance manager of UAE rugby, was also overseeing proceedings in Shanghai, and he was upbeat about the first impressions of Abbas.

"He has a very nice feel for the game, and has a lot of game sense," said Hall, the former Australia international forward.

"When we first saw him play last year it was obvious he had outstanding speed, and we thought that was something we need."

Hall deemed the performances of the three Emiratis in the squad - Abbas, along with Cyrus Homayoun and Mohanned Shaker - to be the brightest aspects of an otherwise relatively bleak weekend in China.

Hall said: "Is it a step forwards or a step backwards [from the opening leg in Borneo]?

"We have blooded another four players, so we know a lot more.

"We have found two new players, and we can review what we have done and learn from it."

pradley@thenational.ae

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