The 2017 Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens kicks off on Thursday at The Sevens Stadium and it is set to be the largest event to date with 837 rugby and netball matches taking place across the three days.
The World Rugby Sevens Series, the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series and the largest Invitation Tournament will descend on The Sevens Stadium for one of the most popular sporting and social events in Dubai.
“Now in its 48th year, the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens has seen tremendous growth and participation from teams and spectators alike,” said Boutros Boutros, divisional senior vice president, corporate communications, marketing and brand for the Emirates Group.
“We are proud that this event has grown to become the most popular sporting event on the Dubai calendar. We are looking forward to another successful event as we continue to make this a bigger and better experience each year.”
World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont commented: “There is a huge amount of excitement ahead of Dubai and, of course, ahead of a busy season of sevens rugby for both the men’s and women’s teams.
“As well as the rounds of the men’s and women’s series, many teams have the Commonwealth Games and Rugby World Cup Sevens to look forward to as the popularity of the game continues to thrive and benefit from the Olympic effect.
“This season will see South Africa men and New Zealand women aim to retain their crowns, but with so many teams vying for that number-one position in the standings in both series, it’s shaping up to be another memorable season.”
The Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens will showcase world-class rugby on all eight pitches, the biggest netball tournament to date and plenty of entertainment on and off the pitches.
As always, the Dubai Sevens is the perfect place to enjoy a variety of food and beverages and with five different F&B zones there will be something for everyone. The popular Sabaa 7s Club will be even bigger and better with brand new interactive games and added attractions by Hallmark and The Toy Store. The Virgin Radio Dubai Teen Zone returns, and this year will see a variety of Star Wars activities on offer in anticipation of the new Star Wars: The Last Jedi release.
Entrance to Thursday’s action is completely free and will include international action on pitch 1 with the launch of the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series and the Invitation Tournament.
Tickets for the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens are now on sale and fans can save Dh100 by buying them in advance. Tickets can be purchased online at www.dubairugby7s.com or at selected outlets including Costa, The Toy Store, Hallmark, Prosport, Virgin MegaStores and Park n Shop.
Ticket Prices for General Admission are:
Powerhouse names like CNCF Legends, J9 Legends and Xodus Steelers have applied a stranglehold on the International Vets section at the Dubai Sevens over the last decade, but the SBA Pirates are hoping to commandeer the trophy this year.
In a bid to level the playing field, Emmanuel Barry has called on the help of a few powerhouse names from the rugby world – including 72-times capped France legend Serge Betsen.
The Pirates – named after the Serge Betsen Academy – will hope to make more of an impression after exiting at the Plate semi-final stage on debut last year.
But with Les Bleus legend Betsen and several other former internationals on board – including fly-half Yann Delaigue (20 caps) and Number 8 Francis Ntamack (younger brother of 46-times capped Emile) – Barry and the Pirates are hoping to hit the high seas of success this weekend.
“This is rugby. The aim is always to win,” said Barry, 42, a former Abu Dhabi Harlequins player who also spent time in the Middle East with Doha and Bahrain.
“This is the second year we have registered this team. Many of us played at the Sevens before but we used to play for other teams. Last year we finished second in our group and ended up losing in the semi-final of the Plate.”
Despite his optimism, Barry is aware of just how difficult the treasure of a trophy will be to get their hands on.
In the previous decade, CNCF Legends have won five of the last nine Trophy finals, including four in a row from 2008-11. Xodus Steelers won the next two before CNCF won again in 2014, with legendary South Africa scrum-half Joost van der Westhuizen’s J9 Legends winning back to back crowns the last two years.
“It will be very tough. I suppose there will be the usual suspects to watch out for such as J9 Legends, 100 World Legends Project, Joining Jack Vets, Bali Legends and of course the CNCF Legends,” said Barry.
“But we have seen a lot of high quality teams last year such as the Mo Bro Vets, Stefan’s BHF, Gulf Legends or Crusaders who could surprise everyone, and of course there are teams that we know nothing about.”
Betsen set up the Serge Betsen Academy in 2004. The charity aims to help underprivileged children in his native Cameroon.
After he was unable to play last year, Barry joked Betsenwas adamant he was playing last year so that the Pirates lived up to the swashbuckling style he adopted during his playing days.
“We registered the team last year and straight away asked Serge for the authorisation to link up with the Serge Betsen Academy,” added prop Barry.
“He said yes straight away but unfortunately could not be with us last year. He watched us from a distance, probably didn’t like much the fact that we lost two games, so ended up coming this year.
“The others didn’t come to play with Serge but because they fancied a run and seeing what the Dubai Sevens is all about. Serge being able to play with us has been the cherry on the pie.”
Barry and the bulk of the team play together at a vets rugby club from the small French town of Pontarlier, near the border with Switzerland.
The Pirates are fresh from their local season, which only ended two weeks ago. Although Barry admits coming from the snow to the sun will be a bit of a shock to the system.
“We have had to stop training due to the amount of snow on the frozen pitches, so the weather of Dubai is something we all look forward to,” he added.
“We will also come in fancy dress. I can’t reveal what we will be dressed as but can give you a clue, it’s in the name of our team.”
With the academy set up to help children in Cameroon, Barry revealed donations will be made to the SBA.
“Having played the other teams we realised that, through sponsorship, it would be a great way to raise money for a charity that was close to our hearts,” he said.
“There are so many to be honest, we know that many of the other teams play for great causes too and we really admire them for it.
“The SBA is unique in the sense that it is bringing education, healthcare and generally speaking a future to children in need, and all that through the powerful vector of teaching them the values of rugby.”
Dubai Hurricanes player Gwillym Poole will be attending the Dubai Sevens this weekend, but in a slightly more unusual role than you might imagine– he’ll be manager and assistant coach of the Kukri Cobras, essentially the USA’s second string.
Poole, commercial manager at rugby equipment providers Kukri Middle East and Africa, helped establish the Yalla Kukri team with Yalla Rugby website founder and local rugby photographer Alex Johnson.
Through his Kukri colleague Chris Marshall – an Abu Dhabi Harlequins player – Poole was introduced to USA Eagles’ team manager Dominic Budzisz.
In a 12-month period Poole has gone from managing the Yalla Kukri team to being asked to help coach the Cobras in both the opening leg of the 2017/18 World Rugby Sevens Series in Dubai this weekend, as well as the fourth leg in the US’ back yard, Las Vegas, next March.
Poole, 33, hopes it will all eventually prove to be a stepping stone towards a coaching career once he eventually hangs up his boots.
“I hope to gain as much experience as I can from this weekend,” said the Englishman, who has lived in Dubai for the last four years and played his first three years at Dubai Sharks.
“Rugby is my life and to work within a professional team is the dream, I’m too old to do it now as a player so why not as a manager or coach.”
It’s been a whirlwind 12 months for Poole, who has plunged into the challenge with both feet since being approached by Marshall – who himself has coaching experience on the USA 7s circuit.
Poole, who gained his coaching awards while on a rugby scholarship at the University of Central Lancashire in conjunction with Newcastle Falcons, added: “Last year I set up the Yalla Kukris with Alex, including all sponsors for our local Gulf Men’s Open team with Yalla Rugby and Kukri Sports in partnership.
“While I was working on that I also I took on the role as team manager/coach and it went really well.From there, I was introduced to one of the USA managers, Dominic. He and Chris asked me if I would be interested to do the same for them at the Dubai 7s this year and possibly forward onto Las Vegas.
“Of course, I said yes, and have spent the last eight months putting together everything we need, from Kukri kit, hotels, vehicles etc.”
Cobras head coach is Chris Roberts with Budzisz as manager and Poole, ironically from Poole in Dorset, admits he’s relished being part of the preparations for Dubai, where the Cobras face Germany Development, Georgia 7s and Froggies in the International Invitation Men’s division.
“As the weekend gets closer the conversations and communications are becoming regular,” added Poole.
“Some including plans with the USA which of course, I can’t really disclose. We also have meetings planned leading upto the tournament where I plan to gain further experience and insight.”
Poole has grand plans for his dugout debut and that of the Cobras in Dubai, aiming to end the weekend as champions.
“We feel as a unit we can win each game and become champions,” said Poole, who played against the UAE for the Conference Barbarians earlier this year.
“This is our short-term goal as we hope for this team to grow and be involved in further tournaments around the world.Next up is Las Vegas and Hong Kong.
“The talent in this squad is huge. We have some of the biggest names from the sevens circuit and we are extremely proud to have these guys play for us.
“Players from the USA squad like Chris Mattina and Kevon Williams coming into our squad means we are going to be up there in terms of the final.
“Add in the experience and talent of Ryno Benjamin, Wes Pooley and the other great players we have, we should be putting on a fantastic show for all the spectators and fans.
“Our aim is also to raise the profile of Kukri Sports in the Middle East in conjunction with our other sponsors while trying to bring the best rugby players to the Middle East. Kukri Sports is seeking to align itself as a brand with the best globally and I feel the Cobras squad reflects that.”
After missing out on glory in the Gulf Men’s Open with Yalla Kukri a year ago, Poole also hopes it will be a double celebration for Kukri this year.
“Yalla Kukri’s aim will be to dominate after cruelly missing out on the final last year.
“We have been training well for weeks with the six new players in the squad and it’s all going really well. We are focused on getting Yalla Kukri to become champions.”