Dubai English Speaking College’s bid to add the Girls Under 19 title next week to the Boys equivalent the school won last year at the Dubai Sevens will be a tough task.
Dubai Exiles have traditionally dominated the event. Fellow giants of Gulf club rugby like Abu Dhabi Harlequins and Dubai Hurricanes will also be represented at the competition, which starts on Thursday, December 1.
And yet DESC have reason to feel optimistic, too. After all, they are led by one of the leading talents of girls rugby in the region.
Emily Eglen, 17, was the leading try-scorer when the UAE won the Under 20s Women Asia Sevens tournament in Uzbekistan earlier this month.
The Australia-born DESC pupil scored 13 tries in the six games it took the national age-group team to triumph in that event.
It might have been regarded as a decent warm-up ahead of the Sevens, were it not for the fact that just keeping warm at all was part of the challenge for the touring UAE players.
“It was an amazing opportunity to travel to a different country and play with the girls, as I had never done it before,” Eglen said.
“It was a completely different experience for me. I’d never played in rain and such freezing weather before. Going over and playing in that was a lot different to what I am used to, but it was fun playing in a completely different temperature.
“Because you are constantly moving when you are on the field, you are not cold, but before the games it was freezing.”
Eglen has been playing full-contact rugby for the past three years, having first started rugby via a touch programme at DESC.
“I am quite a lot smaller than the other girls,” she said.
“Then, as soon as I got into it, I loved it. But it was scary at first. Being able to make big hits, and run the length of the pitch, it is a good feeling.”
According to George Cliffe, DESC’s coach who was also in charge of the UAE U20 girls side in Uzbekistan, Eglen’s rapid progress in rugby has been a triumph for hard work.
“Emily is a multi-sport athlete,” Cliffe said. “She did athletics when she was younger, she has played netball, and been involved in water polo and basketball.
“She didn’t start rugby until she was in Year 8, so the fact she has done what she has is really nice.
“The transfer of athleticism and physical fitness goes well into rugby, when you have to be aggressive, powerful and fast as well.
“She has been exemplary in terms of her attitude, and that is what has turned her into the player she is today.
“I think people think she found it easy just because she is quick. That hasn’t been the case. They only see the tries on Instagram, but she has put in a lot of hard graft behind the scenes.”