Mike Phillips wants kids to Just Play and have fun at new Rugby academy in UAE

Sport360 staff 18:31 13/12/2017
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Wales and British & Irish Lions legend Mike Phillips is launching a new rugby academy in the UAE.

Phillips, capped 94 times by Wales and five times by the Lions, will launch the new programme in mid-January, initially aimed at three to 11-year-olds.

The former scrum-half has joined forces with Dubai-based Just Play to form the academy and will draw on the expertise of Emlyn Jones, a coach with more than 25 years experience.

Phillips has only been in the UAE for a few months, but is impressed with the growing rugby scene and is looking forward to being part of it.

“I am really looking forward to getting out on the pitch,” he said.

“I have met some of the kids and parents already and everyone’s excited – as I am too. “Rugby has given me a lot of great memories, and lots of great friends and those are the values of rugby really. It’s a unique sport which brings everybody together and we are looking to develop that here and bring a lot of fun and happiness to a lot of kids.”

Despite hanging up his boots earlier this year, Phillips made a shock return for his old club the Scarlets in November to help out during an injury crisis, but is now firmly focused on his new task.

Known for his robust style on the field, the former Ospreys, Blues and Racing Metro man says his coaching philosophy centres around learning and enjoyment.

“It’s just about having fun really,” Phillips said.

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“I want to see kids go out there and express themselves. It’s a great way to stay healthy, make new friends and learn some of the values of rugby that can be so important in a child’s development.

“No matter where in the world you go there is always respect between players and between fans, and it’s great to be part of that. Those are values we will be trying to get across along with trying to help develop the game here in the UAE.”

Phillips says the academy will be all about inclusion – with the girls’ game playing a key part. “In recent years we have seen more females getting involved in the game, not just within the UAE but globally, with a thriving women’s professional game and a growing female development programme. This is great for the future of the sport and something we are very keen to encourage.”

Jones has coached at academies in the UK and is now relishing the chance to work alongside a man he has long admired from the stands.

In particular, he is looking forward to working with an ex-professional who is eager to get his hands dirty. “This is not just about having a name coming in here and fronting up an academy, which has happened in Dubai quite a few times. But Mike really wants to get hands on and involved which is perfect for me,” he said.

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Key for the coaching duo is also being able to give talented individuals the opportunity to progress and enhance their chances of playing at the top level.

“What we want to do is to build pathways for players,” said Jones. “One of the ways rugby can suffer over here is if players want to progress in the game they have to go back to English or southern hemisphere rugby schools, so we lose a lot of good players to different parts of the world.

“We are building links with Racing Metro in Paris, and I have links with Bath Academy in the UK so we want to build a system where our players will have opportunities at other clubs and academies. So they can still be based here but can transfer their skills elsewhere.”

Players looking to join the training sessions can now sign up for the new term which will take place from January 15 to April 27 2018. Participation in the spring term costs Dh1,450 and includes a full rugby kit.

For more information about sessions at Just Play’s Mike Phillips Rugby Academy, call 04 348 3869.

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