Al Ain Amblers might have lost out in the UAE Conference final on Friday, but in one vital facet of the game, they are setting an example for everyone else to follow.
Three of the Amblers side that lost out 37-21 to Dubai Tigers in the finale to the second-tier season are Emiratis.
Judged by how they performed against Tigers, none is a token selection. They do not just hold their own in the Al Ain starting XV. Rather, they stand out for their excellence.
Ebrahim Doraee caught the eye as an assured, side-stepping full-back. Khalid Al Junaibi is a tough-tackling wing, while Mohammed Al Marar is an inexhaustible loose-forward.
All of which is far removed from their humble beginnings in the sport, while in their mid-teens at a taster session at their secondary school in the Garden City.
“In 2012 I saw these boys at school, in a group of 250 students,” Sami Smara, the UAE Rugby development manager, said. “I showed them a rugby ball, and asked ‘What’s this?’ They said ‘It’s an American football’.
"Now, they are at the field, they are in the side alongside the expatriates. It is really amazing.”
The trio were introduced to the sport via UAE Rugby’s development programme. Having started out in the all-Emirati Al Ain Wolves side, they have been involved with the Amblers senior team since 2016.
“For them, it has not just been that they are learning rugby, it is a culture change as well,” Andrew Rouvi, the Al Ain Amblers club manager, said.
“It is a sport that does not come normally to them. For me, I see it as being a big lifestyle change for them.
“They have to turn up to training. If they don’t, they don’t get picked. They have to follow suit as much as everyone else.
“It is about getting to understand there is a different culture to rugby. But those guys have done fantastically well.”
Smara has been so impressed by the trio’s aptitude and commitment, he has started to use them during his own coaching programmes. He believes they can be role models for aspiring players.
“We lose a lot of players after Grade 12 because of [military service],” Smara said. “But these boys have kept coming, every Friday, to rugby. The senior coach has kept them involved in the team, he has given them time to play.
“These players are role models for my kids, because they play for the national team. They go to schools, deliver sessions, speak about nutrition, referee games in national schools festivals.
“Ebrahim is already a role model. He is very confident, and he has the talent – he has the talent of an expat player, to be honest. He is one of the best players in the team already.”