Ryan, the mastermind of Fiji’s first ever Olympic gold medal, is widely regarded to be one of the greatest the game has ever seen and was joined at the initiative by fellow Fiji coach and history maker Chris Cracknell.
Designed by HSBC, the programme is intended to ensure a strong flow of new Emirati talent into the sport and provide a platform for youngsters to mature, enhance and show off new found skills.
Taking place at schools across Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the HSBC grassroots initiative first visited Hamdan Bin Rashed School on Wednesday morning before travelling to Dubai College in the afternoon. Sessions at Al Yasmina Academy and The British School, Al Khubairat will follow.
After the success of rugby sevens’ Olympic debut in Rio, the sport is entering into a pivotal year, with a unique opportunity to accelerate the growth of the game. HSBC’s vision for rugby sevens is a dedication to grassroots growth and through programmes such as the player pathway programme and is helping to drive participation in order to ensure a strong flow of new talent into the sport, and make sure the Olympic success isn’t a one off, but the catalyst for even greater success.
Aside from providing opportunity to emerging young talent, the HSBC grassroots initiative has also helped more seasoned youngsters begin their final preparations for the National School Boys competition, which is now a key fixture in the schedule at the HSBC World Rugby Sevens in Dubai.
One of the youngsters hoping to take part in the competition is Ahmed Sallah Ali, 16, from Hamdan Bin Rashed School, who said: “Today was awesome! Training with Ben Ryan and Chris Cracknell is an amazing experience. I’ve learnt some new tricks and one day would like to go and take on the Fiji team, but representing the UAE!”
In advance of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in three weeks’ time one further opportunity awaits three lucky individuals who have participated in the grassroots initiative. Based on attitude and dedication, a select group will be chosen to fine tune their skills in a gruelling Fiji style fitness session led by Ben Ryan on Thursday December 1st alongside rugby legends Brian O’Driscoll and George Gregan.
The Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens, the first leg of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, takes place from Thursday 1st December to Saturday 3rd December. Over 100,000 sports fans are expected to walk through the gates at the Sevens Stadium across the three days of world class competition.
Benade admits his bumbling champions are yet to click but claims hard work and sticking together in trying times is how they will come through their malaise.
“It’s definitely not the start we wanted but we will continue working hard on the training ground to get better and play the rugby we want to,” said the South African.
“Our individual errors are killing us at the moment.
“It is a massive game for us and Saracens. It is a must-win if we want to have any chance of reaching the play-offs in the UAE Premiership at the end of March. I am still very positive and believe in this group of players.”
The season takes a hiatus for the sevens season after Friday. Sarries do not play until January 20 and coach Winston Cowie is determined to go into the break on a high. “We are very much looking forward to the match,” said the New Zealander, who’s side have lost three of the last four games by seven points or less.
“It’s been very frustrating to lose three close ones. Credit to all teams – it’s the most competitive league I can recall over the last eight years. We will be putting everything into this week to go into the break not far behind the semi-final mix.”
Jebel Ali Dragons once again showed their strength as they put in a dominant first-half display to power to a 42-30 win over Exiles.
Sakiusa Naisau crossed three times as the hosts led 42-16 at one stage. Hooker Gio Fourie also touched down twice while flanker Matt Henry also scored. Exiles responded through Viriniki Leveanasiga, Nathan Watts and Matt Travers tries.
“There was too much for us to do in the second half,” said Exiles scrum-half Ed Armitage. “They capitalised on our mistakes, of which there were many. We can’t seem to produce a complete performance.”
Dubai Hurricanes kept their momentum going with a narrow 18-16 victory against Abu Dhabi Saracens. New Zealand outside half Andrew Powell again clinched a late win, keeping his nerve to nail a penalty from nearly 50 metres.
Greg Thompson got Canes’ try with the rest of the points coming from Powell’s boot. Sarries’ points came courtesy of a Winston Cowie try with Steve Hamilton kicking 11 points.
In the night’s other game, Quins remain undefeated but dropped their perfect start as they played out a thrilling 23-23 draw in the capital with resurgent Doha.