x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

UAE's Rugby League World Cup dreams for 2017 are 'realistic'

World Cup ambition is not impossible for UAE rugby league, according to Tony Scott, coach of the Abu Dhabi Harlequins.

The success of the Rugby League Cup in the UAE has given hope of the country being able to push to qualify for the World Cup in 2017.
The success of the Rugby League Cup in the UAE has given hope of the country being able to push to qualify for the World Cup in 2017.

DUBAI // Qualification for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup is a feasible ambition for the nascent UAE national team, according to the coach of the first domestic club champions.

Tony Scott, who oversaw Abu Dhabi Harlequins' domination of the debut Rugby League Cup, believes the nation is closer to reaching the top in league than it is in union, even though the code is in its infancy here.

Sol Mokdad, the chief executive of the Rugby League Commission, has reiterated his intention of readying a side for a title at reaching the World Cup in 2017.

"We have three years to prepare and we think, with the right structures in place we could beat teams like Italy or Lebanon," Mokdad said, after reflecting on the talent on show in the tournament that concluded on Friday.

"The road to the World Cup is so much easier in league. The flexibility we have is much more than in rugby union. They are concentrating on nations round here and they want one team [to qualify]."

Scott believes the incentive of a World Cup qualifying campaign would be a significant draw for talented players.

"Sol's idea of a World Cup team is a very, very good one and it is a lot more realistic than people think," Scott said.

"I don't think within the next 15 or 20 years you will see a UAE rugby union team at a World Cup. We are that far off the mark with regards the national game.

"But in rugby league, in our area we could go and topple Lebanon, who have had sides in the World Cup before.

"There is a real opportunity there. It is just a matter of putting heads together, coming up with the right ideas, the right structures for a competition and it really could go from strength to strength."

pradley@thenational.ae

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