x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

UAE rugby coaches thinking 'if only' at Bahrain players lost to international game

With players such as Rory Binder and Daniel Bell lost to international rugby after the disbanding of the Arabian Gulf rugby union team, UAE coach Shane Thornton must be left wondering what might have been.

Two weeks is hardly long enough to make a heart grow wistful for the past. But when Bahrain dismantled Toa Dubai 43-19 at The Sevens on Friday afternoon, the Gulf's best side gave graphic evidence of just how much had been lost in the space of a fortnight.

Bahrain have won more titles than any other club in the 40-odd years since rugby first became established in the Middle East. They remain the region's leading club, having won the last Premiership in its cross-border guise before the league was revamped last summer, as part of a restructuring of the sport in West Asia.

With the UAE now assuming the Arabian Gulf's position in Asian rugby as of the start of 2011, Bahrain's players will now be lost to competitive international rugby.

On the evidence of their match against Toa on Friday, the talent drain is going to be vast. Daniel Bell, the Bahrain fly-half who made his debut for the Gulf at the Dubai Rugby Sevens last month, scored two tries. Rory Binder, the South African centre who was arguably the Gulf's best player at the Sevens in December, was the outstanding player on the field.

On the adjacent pitch, Bruce Birtwistle the UAE coach, was running his Dubai Dragons team through a warm-up.

His mind was fixed on their top of the table meeting with the Dubai Hurricanes, but had he glanced across at Binder and his teammates, he will have pondered what might have been. And what once was.