x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Rugby World Cup set to divide households

New addition to family caught in middle as seven weeks of Rugby World Cup warm up

Divided loyalty: Patsy and Scott Keer with the three-month-old daughter Sienna in Dubai.
Divided loyalty: Patsy and Scott Keer with the three-month-old daughter Sienna in Dubai.

DUBAI // Rugby brought them together, but for the next seven weeks the Rugby World Cup will put a couple on different sides of one of the world's most famous sporting rivalries.

And now, Scott and Patsy Keer have a new member to the team: three-month-old Sienna, who was born in Dubai to parents who support Australia and New Zealand.

"My feelings are very strong for a New Zealand-supporting girl," says Mr Keer, 32.

Before Sienna was born, his parents sent a black singlet with "New Zealand" printed on it.

"I have a lot of pressure from the in-laws even before she was born," says Mrs Keer, 30, who grew up in Dubai. "But when Australia were doing so bad for a while I had no problem supporting New Zealand."

Nearly three weeks ago, Australia beat the All Blacks in the Tri Nations, an annual tournament between the two Australasian nations and South Africa.

"Winning the Tri Nations made my day," Mrs Keer says.

She says she was not quiet about the Wallabies' rare win over the Kiwis.

"No, I don't take it easy on him," Mrs Keer says. "I was holding the baby and giving her a high five when we won. He was trying to make her support New Zealand and it's not that often they lose."

Both would love an Australia-New Zealand final, which is possible if both teams win all of their games.

"That would be a massive game and I'd like to see Australia play New Zealand in the final," Mr Keer says. "It would be a great spectacle."

"It's a very fine line," adds Mrs Keer.

Rugby fans across the world are in for a seven-week ride on an emotional roller coaster.

If the predictions come true, New Zealand will have the toughest games to reach the finals. They could meet the World Cup holders, South Africa, in the semi-finals after beating a ninth-seeded Argentinean side in the quarter-finals.

Australia, who should beat Ireland in their group, would meet the winners between France and the 2003 World Cup champions England.

"Australia won two World Cups already and have one up on us, and it would be pretty annoying if they beat us," says Mr Keer, who plays second row for Dubai-based Dragons and for the UAE national team.

"I'd be pretty smug," says Mrs Keer, who has not ruled out finding a miniature jersey for Sienna.

Mr Keer's UAE teammates, the Emirati brothers Yousef and Mohannad Shaker, say they will try not to hold any grudges if the teams they have chosen to follow clash.

Yousef, 24, says he is supporting Japan because the UAE played against them this year and he is familiar with some of the players.

"They are the only Asian team in the finals," he says.

Mohannad says he will side with Samoa because a lot of the brothers' coaches in the past five years were from the Pacific Islands.

Yousef, who plays blindside flanker, says their house will be busy for the next seven weeks. They have turned it into an open majlis for friends who want to learn about the game.

Complete with wide-screen TV and a collection of medals they have gathered over the years, the brothers often host teammates for televised games.

Their friends have also gained an interest since the two have become the face of UAE rugby.

"They want to watch and understand rugby and they can learn by watching the game with us," Yousef says.

"We will show them the rules and why certain moves are not allowed and what they can get away with."

The only problem for UAE fans is the kick-off times. The latest is 12.30pm and the earliest games start at 5am.

New Zealand open the tournament against Tonga at 12.30pm on Friday. The match will be shown live on OSN Sports.

eharnan@thenational.ae