UAE bid for 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens

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Men at the top: (l-r) UAE performance manager Roelof Kotze, UAE RF secretary Qais Al Dhalai and team manager Mohammed Shaker.

The rugby World Cup Sevens could be heading back to Dubai in 2018, after the UAE Rugby Federation revealed they had officially begun the bidding process this weekend.

The Emirates last played host to the showcase of the globe’s finest limited-sides stars in 2009.

The sport has gone from strength-to-strength in the inter­vening years, with attendances top­ping 100,000 for the annual Dubai Sevens extravaganza.

This popularity combined with the world-class 7he Sevens Stadium facilities makes the UAE, who reg­istered intent earlier in the year, a credible candidate.

The International Rugby Board has received interest from 13 other nations, with competition set to come from England, Fiji, France, Hong Kong, Netherlands, New Zea­land, Portugal, Scotland, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, United States and Wales. Official bids have to be submitted by December, with the winner revealed in May.

“We are bidding for the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens, it is a very hot topic for us as we started the bidding process yesterday [Sat­urday],” UAE RF secretary general Qais Al Dhalai said. “This will be in partnership with the Dubai govern­ment. We are going to lobby heavily for this, for our nation.

“The bidding form is a long docu­ment, with requests about many sides of the game – commercial, technical, communication, player welfare, stadium, referees etc.”

The 2013 tournament in Moscow was marked by poor attendance, which Al Dhalai insisted would not be an issue in the UAE.

He added: “Apparently, the IRB have learned from their mistakes from the previous event in Moscow when the stadium was empty.

“It damages the sevens game if you watch the final with only 200 people in a 40,000-seater stadium.”

A potential hurdle to Dubai’s bid comes with the timing of the tour­nament. Organisers are pushing for an August or September start, which would be impossible for the UAE to comply with because of the intense heat during those months.

Al Dhalai said: “One of the big fac­tors that will determine our success is the time factor. The UAE RF is in discussions with the IRB to find a suitable window. We saw positive signs that there could be a mutual agreement to be found.”

The Rugby World Cup Sevens is usually held every four years. But a one-off, five-year gap has been agreed to create a two-year window with the Olympic Games after the

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UAE rugby hurt by Asian Games exclusion

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Performance takes a hit: UAE (green) players contest for the ball during the Asian Rugby Sevens Series.

The UAE’s daunting task to make an impression at the Hong Kong round of the HSBC Asian Rugby Sevens Series became tougher after the players’ confidence was shaken by last week’s decision not to send them to September’s Asian Games, according to team manager Mohamed Shaker.

The 35-year-old’s youthful side were thumped yesterday and on Saturday, finishing bottom after shipping 160 points in heavy losses to opponents Malaysia, Japan, Chinese Taipei and Kazakhstan.

The mood in the developing 12-man squad, which boasted the lowest average age at the tournament and contained four new call-ups, was not helped after the UAE National Olympic Committee informed them on Wednesday that they would not be able to take up their wildcard entry into the upcoming event in South Korea.

“Our Olympic Committee decided to not take the rugby team, we found out two days before we travelled,” Shaker said. “It affected the players, this was a disadvantage.

“The players are very disappointed. It really affected the senior players, as this was the time to play.”

The withdrawal means the UAE are now focusing on the Asian Rugby Football Union’s Olympic pre-qualifiers in Al Ain (October 31) and India (November 29-30).

Part of this drive will see contact made with UAE Premiership sides today, to try and arrange friendly sevens matches. The team’s only try in Hong Kong was scored in the 40-5, 11/12th-place play-off defeat to Kazakhstan.

“We are still learning, as we changed the whole team with most of them being young boys aged 18 or 19,” Shaker said. “Our plan is not for now, it is for the future.”

The UAE next play on September 6-7 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for the second of four HSBC Asian Rugby Sevens Series meetings.

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Harlequins hopeful of retaining links with Abu Dhabi

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Keen to keep UAE ties: Conor O’Shea believes the two clubs have very strong links.

 Harlequins director of rugby Conor O’Shea is confident the club can retain close ties to the UAE, de­spite seeing their association with Etihad come to an end.

Etihad announced in June that it would not be renewing its seven-year relationship with Quins that had seen the company’s logo embla­zoned on the team’s kit and at their ground, The Stoop.

The tie-up had also brought the west London club to Abu Dhabi on several occasions to take part in coaching sessions, while links with the Abu Dhabi Harlequins (for­merly Abu Dhabi Bats) had been fostered.

And O’Shea is hopeful the rela­tionships formed on such trips do not automatically come to an end just because Etihad are no longer his club’s lead sponsor.

“One of our big drivers is our affiliate clubs,” the former Ireland international full-back said. “Will Skinner (the club’s affiliate manager) is in charge of setting up the whole network and he’s doing a great job on that and I think Etihad still have a box at The Stoop. 

"Hope­fully the relationship is there that there will still be a very strong link between us and Abu Dhabi anyway. Because I think it’s one that we’ve all enjoyed over the last couple of years and I’d be pretty hopeful that we can have a good relationship with both Etihad and Abu Dhabi Quins.”

The affiliation between Quins and their Abu Dhabi counterparts has already seen promising centre Iziq Foa’i spend two spells in west London. Foa’i took part in both the Premiership 7s and World Club 7s for Quins. Playing from the bench he was unable to prevent them slip­ping to defeat in the Shield final against Seattle at Twickenham last weekend.

However, the Abu Dhabi school­boy did produce one late break against New York that led to a try on day one, and O’Shea admits he will be keeping a “watching eye” on Foa’i.

“Izzy’s got a lot of potential, a lot of potential,” he said. “He’s a big guy and he can play back row or centre and we just want to have a look at him. He’s up at St Helens now, I think, having a little dabble up there. There’s no doubt if he gets the intensity of the levels he plays at up he has a lot to offer.”

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