x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

The Sevens lacks the Jebel Ali atmosphere

Whether they will get quite the numbers, and whether their noise will be quite as appreciable as it would have been had the game been staged - as originally scheduled - at Jebel Ali Centre of Excellence, is a moot point.

The UAE side will look to put the loss to Japan behind them as they face Kazakhstan today.
The UAE side will look to put the loss to Japan behind them as they face Kazakhstan today.

Given the stakes for today's meeting with Kazakhstan in Dubai are about as high as they have been for the representative team in two years, they could do with some substantial home support.

Whether they will get quite the numbers, and whether their noise will be quite as appreciable as it would have been had the game been staged - as originally scheduled - at Jebel Ali Centre of Excellence, is a moot point.

Much potential was lost when the decision was made to switch this fixture to The Sevens, the high-spec grounds which are owned by Emirates Airline, the national team's sponsors.

Some of the finest successes for the Arabian Gulf, which metamorphosed into the UAE at the start of last year, came when playing at tight-knit home grounds closer to town.

Their last-minute win over China in front of a couple of thousand people at the old Dubai Exiles in 2005 was a classic.

Amazing as it is to think now, given the relative fortunes of the sides since, they even beat Hong Kong at the atmospheric ground in Bahrain two years ago.

Jebel Ali has similar qualities to both, being tightly enclosed by a perimeter fence, and with a small makeshift stand in close proximity to the pitch. It is also the most accessible ground for people from Abu Dhabi, as well as the majority of Dubai's rugby public.

Seeing as the battlements will need to be manned today, the UAE could have done with a fortress like Jebel Ali.

pradley@thenational.ae