Legends Brian O’Driscoll and Bryan Habana putting kids through paces at Dubai Sevens

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HSBC ambassadors O'Driscoll and Bryan Habana with schoolkids at the Dubai Sevens in December.

Ahead of this weekend’s world renowned Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens, global title partner HSBC felt it only fitting to bring together two former heavyweight rivals to the UAE – Ireland legend Brian O’Driscoll and South Africa speedster Bryan Habana.

The pair are at the Sevens this weekend to launch a timetable of inspiring coaching clinics in the fan village aimed at accelerating the development of young rugby talent in the UAE.

Fifteen lucky schoolchildren were thrilled to find former British & Irish Lions centre O’Driscoll and Springboks winger Habana waiting for them on the pop-up pitch, with the two legends joining local coaches to sprinkle their rugby wisdom on the rookie youngsters, in the first of 11 high-paced, energetic coaching clinics to run across the weekend.

In a year where rugby has been added to the national curriculum in the UAE, the coaching clinics form part of the banks continued efforts to support the growth of rugby in the Middle East, with children aged eight-16 able to sign up for the introductory rugby tasters at any point during the weekend.

Those interested in taking part simply need to visit the pop-up pitch with a parent or guardian and register their interest, where they will receive a time slot for them to return to strap on their trainers and get involved on a first come first served basis.

Get down to the Dubai Sevens on Saturday to get some tips from Bryan Habana and Brian O'Driscoll.

Get down to the Dubai Sevens on Saturday to get some tips from Bryan Habana and Brian O’Driscoll.

Speaking at the launch of the HSBC skills zone, Habana, international rugby’s second highest ever tryscorer with 67, said: “To continue growing, it’s important that rugby is always looking to reach out to new players and new fans.

“Starting with the next generation is crucial, which is why I’m excited to hear that rugby has been added to the national curriculum here in the UAE for the first time.”

O’Driscoll, who is Ireland’s leading appearance maker with 133 caps and eighth on the all-time tries list with 47, added: “Rugby sevens is the perfect format for attracting kids to the game.

“Coaching clinics like this are being run by HSBC across the weekend. Encouraging them to have fun with their friends and give rugby a go.”

In 2018, HSBC had over 100,00 children participating in grassroots rugby initiatives globally with many of those involved coming from the UAE. A total of 36,576 children went through the UAE Rugby Federation’s Player Pathway Programme in 2018, of which 16,970 were girls.

The HSBC coaching clinics will run on a first come first served basis at the following times on Saturday, December 1: 11.00 – coaching clinic; 13.00 – coaching clinic; 15.00 – coaching clinic (13-16); 16.00 – coaching clinic; 18.00 – close.

To learn more, follow @HSBC_Sport on Twitter and Instagram and HSBC Sport on Facebook.

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Australia ready to step up and challenge Black Ferns at Dubai Rugby Sevens

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Australian Women’s Sevens coach John Manenti has labelled New Zealand as favourites ahead of the HSBC Dubai Sevens this weekend.

The Black Ferns have looked virtually unstoppable this year, sweeping titles at the Commonwealth Games and the Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco, as well as securing victory at the USA Sevens in Glendale two weeks ago.

Even without their prolific Portia Woodman – who scored 43 tries last season – the Black Ferns are still sprinkled with talent across the field and have the likes of World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year Michaela Blyde to help inspire them to a fourth victory in the UAE.

“New Zealand are right to be favourites. I think their consistency over the last 12 months has been significant. They are well and truly entitled to be favourites,” said Manenti speaking ahead of the HSBC Dubai Sevens this weekend.

“The responsibility lies with us and the other teams to take the crown off them. They have speed and skill across the park. I definitely feel the other teams have progressed.

“Whoever gets the opportunity to play them has to be really consistent for 14 minutes and take their chances if they are to beat them. It’s fantastic that someone is setting the standards.”

Manenti’s side were head and shoulders above their rivals when winning in Dubai 12 months ago and have a point to prove after a disappointing fifth place finish at the US Sevens two weeks ago.

“We want to be that team. If we want to be that team then we have to beat them at some stage. We need to keep working on the benchmark that they are setting,” he said.

“We have challenges in the fact that a lot of our senior players are not back from injuries, but that gives us an opportunity to blood some young girls and bring them into the mix.”

Youngsters Sariah Paki (17) and Lily Dick (18) have earned the chance to shine on the grand stage after stellar campaigns in the Aon University 7s competition for Macquarie University and the University of Queensland respectively.

With the way both girls performed in the Oceania 7s in Fiji two weeks ago, they are certain to be stars of the future.

“They are wonderful to work with, very enthusiastic. They came through Aon programme. We sent them to the Oceania competition and they played very well in Fiji,” he said.

“They proved they are tracking well. It’s another step up but we are confident in them. It’ll be exciting to get this first taste of World Rugby for them.”

And if Manenti’s side are to retain their crown and return to the top of the Sevens circuit, they will need the experienced Alicia Quirk to be at her immaculate best.

The 26-year-old has only returned to full fitness after recovering from a knee injury and will add much needed magic to the backline following injuries to key stars Emma Tonegato and Emilee Cherry.

“It’s great to have Alicia back. She’s been here in Dubai many times. She was desperate to come cause she missed out last year when we won. She wants to make an impact on the team,” Manenti said.

“She brings a great balance and her analysis and knowledge of opposition is key to us.”

Australia side will face England, China and USA in the battle to top Pool B.

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Ali Williams and Austin Healey entertain Emirates Airline Rugby Long Lunch crowd

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Austin Healey (l) and Ali Williams were this year's Long Lunch guest speakers.

The annual Emirates Airline Rugby Long Lunch saw a record number of rugby fans enjoy an afternoon of entertainment from former internationals Ali Williams and Austin Healey.

The ex-New Zealand and England stars took part in the event, as part of the annual build-up to the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens, with over 850 people turning up for the Long Lunch at Dubai’s Crowne Plaza in Festival City last Thursday.

The event is part of the excitement ahead of the Sevens, taking place from November 29 to December 1.

Tickets are now on sale and all prices include 5 per cent VAT, meaning buying tickets in advance will save you money.

Taking place at The Sevens Stadium, excited fans can purchase their tickets online at www.dubairugby7s.com or at selected Costa outlets, selected Premier Inns and selected MMI outlets.

Ticket prices (general admission) are:

Thursday, November 29 – free admission; Friday, November 30 – in advance Dh315, on the day Dh420; Saturday, December 1 – in advance Dh315, on the day Dh420.

Season tickets (Friday and Saturday) – in advance Dh525, on the day Dh630. Children under 12 receive free tickets all weekend.

Special reserved seating and hospitality packages are available – visit: www.dubairugby7s.com.

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