No place for 'young' Cullen

The Christina Noble Children's Foundation veterans side are so good that even the former All Black Christian Cullen cannot get a game!

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DUBAI // The Christina Noble Children's Foundation veterans side are so good that even Christian Cullen cannot get a game! Strictly speaking Cullen, at 32, is still three years too young to be eligible to play in the seniors tournament. The former All Black, who was one of Test rugby's most prolific try-scorers before he retired in 2003, has been on holiday in Dubai since last week.

He called Christina Noble on the off chance of getting a run out in this weekend's Dubai Rugby Sevens, only to be rebuffed on the grounds of age. He might have made the grade in the International Invitational tournament, but Christina Noble had to pull their side out of that event after a key sponsor withdrew due to the credit crisis. However, their vets team remain on course to defend the title they won last year and with more than 900 caps and an all-star cast, Cullen's absence may not be too keenly felt.

Damian Smith, the former Australia World Cup winger, said: "This is my third year, and it is not getting any easier. "You can do as much training as you want, but as soon as people start hitting you, you remember how hard it is." The yellow shirts of Christina Noble have become a feature at the Dubai Rugby Sevens. Now in their ninth year of participating, they are the longest-serving charity side taking part.

"It is pretty humbling," added Smith, of his involvement with a charity that aims to help children in Vietnam and Mongolia. "When we arrived, they put the video on showing the kids in Mongolia, and where they stay in the drains in winter. "As much as we have great fun while we are here, it is great to be part of a charity like this."