x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Financial crisis takes rugby team out of tournament

Some of rugby's former stars have been pulled out of this month's Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens due to the global financial slowdown.

DUBAI // Some of rugby's former stars have been pulled out of this month's Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens due to the global financial slowdown. The Sporting Chance Foundation was due to send three sides to the event, staged in the emirate from Nov 27-29, including a team of ex-Test players for the International Veterans competition. However, the charity for which Jonny Wilkinson, the England fly-half, is an ambassador is now only able to send two teams because of a funding cut.

One of the foundation's sponsors has withdrawn support due to the credit shortage, leading Sporting Chance's trustees to cut their most expensively assembled side. As a result, the likes of Kenny Logan, a former Scotland winger, Rob Henderson, the Irish Lion, and Phil Greening, an ex-England hooker, are unlikely to play. "We've lost a lot of the old stars of yesterday who were due to be coming," said one of the foundation's players, Mike Friday, a former England sevens coach.

"It is a massive shame and I don't think it is a decision the trustees took lightly, but it had to be made for the charity's benefit. "We are still coming as an international invitational sevens team, which will be a mixture of northern and southern hemisphere players, a number of whom have been on the IRB Sevens circuit." Friday and Greening gave up their highly successful roles coaching the England sevens team two years ago in favour of careers in business. However, they remain two of the most recognisable faces in rugby's abbreviated form and both will be present at the sevens, if only in a coaching capacity.

Greening is the patron of the Sporting Chance Foundation, which he set up with the aim of improving the lives of poor children after a visit to Cambodia. He is the head coach of the side which will play in the International Invitational tournament in Dubai. His side will be full of up-and-coming stars of the sevens game from England, New Zealand and Australia and will be looking to go one better than last year, when they finished runners-up to the South Sea Drifters.

Friday, who now works for the global property advisers DTZ, will be the assistant coach of the foundation's women's side at the sevens. It is effectively the England women's team, which he and Simon Amor, his former protégé and ex-England sevens captain, are preparing for next year's World Cup. pradley@thenational.ae