Captain Turner aims for Pitch 1 return as JESS bid to retain Dubai Sevens U19 crown

Skipper looking to make up for lost time after missing final last year due to injury

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When Jumeirah English Speaking School claimed the Gulf Under-19s title at the Emirates Dubai Sevens for the first time 12 months ago after years of trying, it was bittersweet for Henry Turner.

To play in a Pitch 1 final at the Sevens is the goal for every schoolboy rugby player in the city.

Turner, who has been at JESS since foundation stage, had done all he could to help get his side there, only to suffer injury in their semi-final win.

Now he is back as captain as the Arabian Ranches-based school look to retain their title this weekend.

“I went in with high hopes only to get injured within the first three minutes,” Turner said.

“I was playing with a few of the other boys for UAE U18s a week later, so it was a tough decision to make to miss the Pitch 1 final, but we had to take into consideration the fact I would be representing the country.

“I stayed on the sidelines to support the boys. It has fuelled me to go again this year, because I haven’t had the chance to run on to Pitch 1 yet.”

At least he will always be able to say he was part of the first cohort of rugby players from his school to say they had won the Sevens.

They had fancied their chances to do so a year earlier, only to be beaten by eventual champions Dubai English Speaking College in the semi-final.

“The message from the start of the year was to go hunting, because we hadn’t had that joy before,” Turner said.

“We lost it the year before having thought that was our golden era. To go on and do it a year later with another good group of boys was really special.

“Now this is my last year and last Sevens so there is a lot on the line, but we are ready for it.”

Paul Jarvis, the JESS coach, is wary of the challenge posed by the likes of Dubai College, who are the most successful side in the competition’s history, and DESC.

However, he thinks his side have the character to mount a strong defence of their crown.

“It was a really good occasion last year, and you could tell it meant a lot to everybody,” Jarvis said.

“Half of this team were involved. They have had that now, so it is not a new thing. We are comfortable with where we are and this is the environment we want to be in all the time.

“On their day, they are definitely good enough to beat anybody, but they need to believe that themselves. Success leads to success.

“They are all good friends and a good bunch of characters. We want that first. You know what your mate needs to motivate them so they can help each other.

"If you are going to win, you are going to win together, and you will remember that forever.”

Updated: November 28, 2023, 7:37 AM