x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

UAE team must play way into Dubai Sevens

The chance of a home representative in the Dubai Sevens later this year will hinge on the UAE's performance in two legs of the Asian Rugby Sevens series.

The UAE national rugby team wil have to play their way into the Dubai Sevens.
The UAE national rugby team wil have to play their way into the Dubai Sevens.

The chance of a home representative in the Dubai Sevens later this year will hinge on the UAE's performance in two legs of the Asian Rugby Sevens Series.

The rugby association gained full Asian Rugby Football Union membership last month, but because they do no have International Rugby Board (IRB) status they cannot assume the place of the disbanded Arabian Gulf side in the first leg of the World Sevens Series in the UAE at the start of December.

Ian Bremner, the chief executive, is seeking to fast track the process, which normally takes 18 months, to gain full IRB membership.

In the meantime, the UAE will need to satisfy the IRB that they are capable of competing against the best sevens sides in the world by performing well against the likes of Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea at the Shanghai Sevens, in August, and the Borneo Sevens in September.

"A key priority for us is to qualify for the Dubai Sevens," Bremner said. "Sevens is an important part of our programme. We have spoken to the IRB again, and to play in the Dubai Sevens, our own tournament, we have to prove ourselves. I understand their position as you don't want a team significantly weaker than the rest."

Paul Treu, the coach of the South Africa sevens team, has won the Dubai Sevens twice, in 2006 and 2008. The Springboks will return to the Emirate in December for the 11th staging of the event, but whether they face the UAE remains to be seen.

"It depends if they are ready," Treu said. "There is no fun getting beat by 80 or 100 points, and that can do damage to the brand and effect morale and motivation. The IRB need to assess if they [the UAE] are ready. They might not be ready this year, but might be next year. The IRB need to consider this carefully."

The long-term sevens goal for the rugby association is to field a team of Emiratis for the 2014 Asian Games in Korea and the Olympics in 2016. The rugby association are attempting to mobilise the male national population into participating in the union code by holding bi-weekly coaching sessions at Zabeel Park in Dubai.

"There is no better platform to expose young players to rugby than sevens," Treu said. "It's quick, exciting and fun. Fifteens can be an expensive exercise, and you don't always have the right-size players to make a team.

"Sevens is the ideal way to start."

The rugby association only formed in 2009 after the news the Arabian Gulf side would be disbanded, and will use sevens to develop the game in the country and as a vehicle to put themselves on the international rugby map.

"For the first time they are playing under their own national flag, and that's exciting," Treu said. "It's tough, but exciting. They can now start to shape their own direction. But some of the players will not only be starting out playing sevens for the first time, but also playing rugby for the first time.

"It will be tough finding their feet, but they have got a good infrastructure and good clubs sides in the UAE. It will be an exciting project to be part of."

kaffleck@thenational.ae


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