Olympic winning sevens coach Ben Ryan returned to the rugby pitch of Hamdan Bin Rashed School Dubai, thrilling 30 youngsters who grasped the opportunity to raise their game in a HSBC grassroots coaching clinic with the Englishman.
For the second year in a row, the former Fiji coach was joined at the HSBC grassroots rugby initiative by trusted partner Chris Cracknell, with the pair offering their hand to help the local youngsters of the United Arab Emirates Rugby Football (UAERF) player pathway programme.
Organised by HSBC, in partnership with the UAERF, the player pathway programme aims to cultivate the next generation of Emirati and expat talent, providing them with the platform and skills to thrive in the game.
Speaking on the sidelines after the session, Ryan was delighted to be back in the UAE.
“It’s not often we get a chance to return to the scene of a previous coaching clinic, one year on, to see the progress that has been made,” Ryan said. “Last year we introduced these up and coming rugby players to the basics. Now they are looking to elevate their games to the next level. It’s great to see.”
He continued: “Programmes like this run by HSBC really give these guys a chance. A chance not only to learn a sport, but to fall in love with it. We’re just the facilitators really, working with HSBC and the UAERF to bring people together in an environment that will help them thrive.”
In the 2016/17 season, HSBC’s grassroots rugby programme in the UAE saw 8,150 children benefit from coaching with many using the clinics as final preparation for the National School Boys competition, which is now a key fixture at the Dubai Rugby Sevens.
When asked what it would take to propel the next generation of UAE youngsters into a global spotlight Ryan was happy to offer up his secrets for success.
“You need to keep it simple” he said.
“The UAE doesn’t have the traditional rugby heritage of other countries so it’s all about continuing to build the basic sporting pathways. That means not only focussing on the kids and their opportunities to play, but also on the local coaches who are providing the inspiration and making these sessions happen.”
The Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens takes place from Thursday 30th November to Saturday 2nd December.
Over 100,000 sports fans are expected to walk through the gates at the Sevens Stadium across the three days of competition.
The Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens will take place from November 30 to December 2 at The Sevens Stadium.
Tickets for the first event in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series and the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series are now on sale.
Over 100,000 fans and 4,500 players from all over the world are expected to descend on The Sevens Stadium over the long weekend.
The Invitation Tournament will see over 260 teams battling it out on all eight rugby pitches and on the netball courts, making 2017 the largest tournament to-date.
Free entry for those under 12 remains and children will have entertainment options available in the village including a dedicated area for teenagers.
All ticket prices for 2017 remain the same as 2016 and buying tickets in advance will save money. Fans can purchase their tickets online at www.dubairugby7s.com
Ticket Prices (general admission) are:
Thursday, November 30 – free admission
Friday, December 1 – in advance AED300, on the day AED400
Saturday, December 2 – in advance AED300, on the day AED400
Season Tickets (Friday and Saturday) – in advance AED500, on the day AED600
Children under 12 admitted free
Special reserved seating and hospitality packages are available – please visit: www.dubairugby7s.com
Having been told by organisers they would be attending a Fijian inspired fitness session, unsuspecting UAE fitness lovers were astonished to find themselves lined up at the bottom of one of Dubai’s most imposing sand dunes.
Not only that, they were greeted by two of world rugby’s all-time greats, Brian O’Driscoll and George Gregan, as well as celebrated sevens super coach Ben Ryan.
Ryan is famed for his energy sapping fitness sessions on the torturous dunes of Fiji, who dared them to emulate the strength, resolve and mental strength of his Olympic gold medal winning side.
The locals were then split into two teams to take on three challenges aimed at challenging body and mind.
Sport360’s very own Niall McCague was on hand to take part and said: “It gave a great insight into what makes the Fijians the fittest athletes in the game.
“The desert sand is so soft, absorbing any power and spring in the lower body and leaving the legs screaming with lactic acid. The Fijians’ gold medal is a testament to training like that day in day out. They’re extraordinary athletes, both physically and mentally.”
For Ryan, clearly at home in the surroundings of imposing dunes, there were no surprises in the reactions of the participants.
“Playing rugby sevens at the highest level demands everything of the human body, both physically and mentally and today has proven that achieving greatness doesn’t just happen overnight,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of fun putting these fitness freaks through their paces, sapping their energy and spirit to show how rugby sevens has taken performance to whole new levels around the world.”