Abu Dhabi school girls team hope to inspire more full-contact rugby by winning Dubai Sevens

The first team of girls to play full-contact rugby at British School Al Khubairat hope to inspire more people to follow their example, by winning the Dubai Rugby Sevens at the first attempt.
Georgia Barber, left, and Ellie Ossuetta, right, will compete for BSAK at the Dubai Rugby Sevens later this year. Ravindranath K / The National
Georgia Barber, left, and Ellie Ossuetta, right, will compete for BSAK at the Dubai Rugby Sevens later this year. Ravindranath K / The National

ABU DHABI // The first team of girls to play full-contact rugby at British School Al Khubairat hope to inspire more people to follow their example, by winning the Dubai Rugby Sevens at the first attempt.

The newly formed side from the Abu Dhabi school have had their application accepted to take part in the Gulf Under 19 Girls tournament at The Sevens in December.

Members of their squad have been playing rugby’s touch version for some years, and now are in the throes of learning full-contact tackling.

Readying themselves in time to challenge at The Sevens in less than three months will be a challenge, according to Ellie Ossuetta, one of the driving forces behind the team.

• See also: BSAK pupil Sam Relton given a ‘taste’ with Premiership’s Saracens

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“Winning it would be amazing, but even getting to the semi-final would be,” Ellie, 17, said. “We have never played contact before, and this will be our first tournament together, ever.

“I know a lot of girls who would love to play contact, but are scared because they don’t think they’re tough enough.

“The reason I started playing rugby was to play contact. I find it exhilarating.”

Ellie, who plays on the wing, started rugby at primary school in the UK, before relocating to the UAE with her family five years ago.

“I had to play with the boys when I started secondary school, as they wouldn’t start a girls team because there weren’t enough players,” she said.

“It was intimidating. I was a shy Year 7, playing with Year 8 and 9 boys who were a lot bigger than me, a lot tougher than me.

“It was still tag rugby, but there was a rough element to it, playing with boys. But I got on fine.”

Georgia Barber, a centre, said success for the first BSAK girls team would be setting an example that others follow.

“Playing in the Sevens for BSAK and promoting contact rugby for girls is a huge achievement, and it is a big step for the school,” Georgia, 17, said. “It is our final year, and hopefully it will be our legacy. When we come back to visit in a year or two, ideally this will still be up and running.

“If we don’t win it for BSAK this year, hopefully they’ll win it next year.”

The senior players in the new team were the same pupils who first asked for touch rugby to be played at the school four years ago.

Ed Lewsey, the director of rugby at BSAK, said he hopes they will also be able to maintain the contact version of the game among girls from now on.

“It is a spectacular event, the best weekend of the year, and for 16 and 17 year olds to get the chance to play in it is incredible for them,” Lewsey said.

“It won’t go unnoticed by other girls in the school, and we would like to do it on an annual basis. I’m really optimistic about how it progresses.”

pradley@thenational.ae

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Published: September 20, 2016 04:00 AM

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