5 things you should know about Dubai Rugby Sevens
A long weekend at the beginning of December means two things: it’s the nation’s birthday and The Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens – which is, in fact, exactly one year older than the UAE itself. Beginning in 1970, it was won by The Staffordshire Regiment and watched by a handful of expat enthusiasts. Now? It’s one of the biggest sporting-cum-social events on the calendar.
A good chunk of you might have spent last weekend on a yacht watching the F1, but for sheer fun, this is the place for a grab-your-mates party. We asked Andrew Wingrove, a fixture on the local rugby scene who just happens to work in the offices upstairs, what we can get our teeth into this weekend.
1. HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series
The main pitch is home to the international teams in both men’s and women’s sections in the global series. The principal draw will be the appearance of the newly crowned – and inaugural – Olympic Sevens winners, Fiji. They triumphed over a Great Britain side packed with English players, who’ll be looking to settle a couple of scores.
The International Women’s tournament will also welcome the reigning Olympic Champions Australia who shocked much-fancied New Zealand in the final 24-17. The women’s game has come a long way over the last 10 years and easily matches the men’s game for skill and aggression.
2. The International Vets
This is always one of the most popular competitions in the draw as it actually contains more international caps than the main competition. The three teams to watch are, as always, Joining Jack, Christina Noble and J9. Christina Noble have owned this cup over the years, so they’re favourites again – although Joining Jack and their very impressive roster of former rugby league stars are hoping this is the year they get to grips with the format. They’ve added former Samoan internationals Freddie and Henry Tuilagi to help them out, too.
3. The Club 7s
Local rivalries are made of this. This is a big section as it is made up of players drawn from the expat rugby scene and who do battle every week in the regular season. Dubai Exiles, Hurricanes, Dragons, Doha and AD Saracens are some of the names playing – and with some decent talent on display, too. Pick the team your neighbours’ kid plays for and cheer them on.
4. The Local Vets
A bunch of over 35s who are still trying to knock lumps out of each other? It might be something that everyone wants to watch but it’ll be a lot of fun – and all in slow mo! Then again, when you have played in this competition as a vet for a few years, you realise that a 35-year-old is a mere sapling. The Hurricanes have owned this competition for as long as I can remember – including last year’s incredible extra-time win over Joining Jack. The Jebel Ali Dragons, having drafted in former England union (and New Zealand rugby league) star Henry Paul, will be hoping to knock them off their perch.
5. UAE national schoolboys competition
Want to see just how healthy the local rugby scene is? Check out the talent on display in the schoolboys section. Last year, Dubai Mixed Schools took the trophy from Rashid School For Boys.
The sevens in stats
130 balls in play