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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Rugby added to UAE's national school curriculum

An agreement between the UAE Rugby Federation and the UAE Ministry of Education means children will be taught rugby in schools

The under 19 girls rugby team from the British School Al Khubairat face off against DXB Exils at Dubai Rugby Sevens. The UAE is looking to foster more Emirati talent in Rugby. Victor Besa for The National
The under 19 girls rugby team from the British School Al Khubairat face off against DXB Exils at Dubai Rugby Sevens. The UAE is looking to foster more Emirati talent in Rugby. Victor Besa for The National

Rugby is now a mandatory part of physical education curriculum as the country looks to develop Emirati talent in the long-established expatriate sport.

The UAE Rugby Federation has made an agreement with the UAE Ministry of Education in the second phase of the sport’s expansion in the Emirati community.

In early January, the Ministry of Education published a rugby workbook and trained more than 400 teachers in a one-day training programme.

There are 16 rugby clubs in the UAE with more than 3,500 registered rugby players in the UAE. Rugby has a long history in the UAE, with the Sharjah Wanderers established in 1977 and the Dubai Exiles established in 1966, but it remains predominately popular among expatriates.

In recent years, there has been a push to develop Emirati talent through festivals and initiatives like the Player Pathway Programme, which brought the sport into schools in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and other emirates. The UAE Rugby federation estimates that there were about 30 Emiratis actively playing rugby five years ago. Through the Pathway programme, an estimated 9,000 children were introduced to the sport.

“Five years back almost no one in the Emirati population knew what rugby was but today if you ask any Emirati, I can guarantee that 90 per cent will know what it is and how it’s played,” said Salman Hadi, the vice chair of the UAE Rugby Federation and head of its rugby development committee.

Introducing rugby into national curriculum is the next step.

“Our first strategy was to get people to know what rugby is, what it looks like, what a rugby ball looks like, especially in the Emirati population,” said Mr Hadi. “Today we are moving into phase two, developing a population of rugby players, building their stamina and nutrition and having them play against worldwide countries that are already established.

“We want players that can win tournaments.”

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Sami Smara, the development manager of the UAE Rugby Federation, expects the number of Emirati boys and girls playing rugby to reach 200,000 in the next two years.

Bill Beaumont, the chair of World Rugby, congratulated the Ministry of Education and UAE Rugby for introducing rugby in the curriculum.

“We applaud the UAE Federation’s continued drive and approach to laying solid foundations to realise a stronger, sustainable game for the future of the sport,” he said in a statement.

Classes start this month.

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