Emiratisation process in full swing, says UAE rugby federation

Target for rugby union fraternity: up to 5,000 Emiratis will be playing the sport by 2016.

There is hope for more Emirati players, such as UAE Shaheen’s Hareb Al Azri, to emerge. Jake Badger for The National
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DUBAI // The UAE Rugby Federation has confirmed it aims to have 5,000 Emiratis playing the sport by 2016.

For the first time in the 44-year history of the Dubai Rugby Sevens, one of the 16 tournaments concurrently running this weekend will involve only indigenous players.

The UAE National Schools Trophy will be pursued by eight institutions from across the emirates.

It marks significant progress, given the first Emirati team debuted in Local Social rugby only in 2005, and that the Dubai Falcons side was heavily fortified by expatriate assistance. Last year was the first time there was no home representation in the IRB competition.

The sport’s ruling body had said the UAE national team had to prove their worth by qualifying through the Asian Sevens series.

The federation took the demotion to the slightly more hospitable climes of the International Invitational competition as an opportunity to gain game experience for more Emirati players.

Twelve months on, a side exclusively peopled by UAE passport holders will compete in the same competition for the first time. The Emiratisation process is gathering pace, according to Faisal Al Zarooni, the vice president of the UAE Rugby Federation (UAERF).

“The UAERF will continue [towards] attaining its goal of 5,000 Emirati youths playing rugby on a weekly basis by the end of 2016,” Al Zarooni said on Wednesday.

“At the forefront of our agenda has been the development of the Shaheen team. The younger Emiratis who are joining the younger squads are showing an extremely positive and committed attitude.

“We have gained support from the UAE National Olympic Committee and the UAE General Authority of Sport and Youth Welfare.

“This has enabled us to set some solid foundations in our efforts to promote the growth of rugby across the emirates.”