Dubai Rugby Sevens began with the amateur events on Thursday, with the headlining Sevens World Series events starting on Friday and culminating on Saturday. Here is The National’s guide to one of the biggest events on the UAE sporting calendar:
All matches at The Sevens in Dubai
Thursday: The first matches kick off at 9am with most of the amateur leagues in action and the women’s world series beginning. Games continue until late evening.
Friday: The men’s world series begins. South Africa v Portugal is the first game at 9am.
Saturday: The finals of most tournaments take places, culminating in the HSBC Sevens World Series final at 8.12pm
HSBC Sevens World Series
IRB Women’s Sevens World Series
Gulf Men’s League; Gulf Men’s Open; Gulf Men’s Social; Gulf Veterans; Gulf Under 18 Boys; Gulf Women; UAE National Schoolboys; International Invitation Men; International Invitation Women; International Open Men; International Open Women; International Social; International Vets; International Under 18 Boys; Gulf Under 18 Girls
Thursday: Entrance is free
Friday: Dh300 in advance, Dh400 on the day
Saturday: Dh500 in advance; Dh600 on the day
A season ticket for both Friday and Saturday: Dh500 in advance, Dh600 on the day
*Tickets can be bought online at Time Out Tickets, Ticketmaster and Virgin Tickets or at various outlets across the UAE
The Sevens stadium is located on the E66 after Junction 30. From Abu Dhabi, it can also be reached from the E77
Organisers are also providing free buses to transport fans from the stadium to various locations in Dubai. They run until midnight Thursday and 1am on Friday and Saturday.
*Visit dubairugby7s.com for more info
How does it work?
Sevens is a slimmed-down, abbreviated and fast-paced version of rugby. Instead of the usual 15-a-side games with eight-man scrums, there are seven on a team with just three in the pack. As such, the accent is less on bulk and combined power and more on speed and individual skills, in matches that last 14 minutes. With less players covering the same amount of space, the action is usually end to end, as well as entirely exhausting for the players involved.
Is it the same for everyone?
Mostly. Of the 17 tournaments being played over the next three days, 15 are played in the sevens format. Two veterans competitions also will be played, which involve 10 players per side, including many greats of the game. This weekend, Andy Farrell, a former dual-code international, Apollo Perelini, Bruce Reihana, Jason White and Brian Lima will all be dotted around various vets sides.
Do we know anyone else?
Generally, the wider audience who follow XVs rugby might not be as familiar with all the players in the abridged format, but their profile has been steadily growing. England’s Dan Norton, New Zealand’s DJ Forbes and Fiji’s Osea Kolinisau are back this weekend and are well-known to many in the crowd. In countries such as Fiji, Samoa and Kenya, sevens generally has greater prominence than the XVs format.
What is so special about Dubai?
Each stage of the grand prix-style world series, which includes locales such as Hong Kong, Wellington and London, has a distinct feel. The sun setting over the desert and a packed grandstand, as well as having over 2,000 active participants, means Dubai is unlike any other.
“Dubai has a unique atmosphere,” said Beth C oalter, the World Rugby sevens operations manager. “With so many different levels of competition taking place side by side, and with the internationals very much at the pinnacle, there is something for all.”
Do Emiratis go?
The tournament is annually scheduled to coincide with National Day weekend, and it predates the country in which it is played – this is the 45th iteration of the tournament. Traditionally, the audience has mainly been composed of expatriates, but local involvement is on the rise. A fully Emirati side has represented the UAE at the past two tournaments, while the National Schools event will culminate in a final on Pitch 1 for the first time on Saturday.
7 Players to Watch:
Jerry Tuwai, Fiji – The defending champions have only two players returning from the side who won in Dubai for the first time last year. Tuwai, one of the new recruits, has already been compared to sevens royalty. "He has Waisale Serevi and William Ryder-type steps," coach Ben Ryan said. "He is at that level. His footwork is incredible."
Seabelo Senatla, South Africa – Another player who has been described as having shades of the great Serevi about his play. The speedy winger was part of the full South Africa XVs squad during their northern hemisphere tour, but was released early to join up with the Blitzbokke ahead of the trip to Dubai.
Andy Farrell, Joining Jack – Probably the most recognisable face this weekend. Farrell is back for the second time with the veterans charity side. He certainly improved the rugby union awareness of the crew of former league internationals in 2013, which is what you would expect from England's assistant coach.
Thinus Delport, J9 Legends – Joost van der Westhuizen's charity side have not brought quite the galaxy of stars they summoned for their Dubai debut last year. Gone are the likes of Serevi, Carlos Spencer and Stephen Larkham. They have recruited a proven winner on this stage, though, in ex-Springbok Delport.
Danielle Waterman, Engand – One of six players in the England squad for Dubai who won the 15-a-side World Cup in France earlier this year. waterman, the England full back, was try-scorer in that final against Canada, too. She is the daughter of a former first-class player who played more than 400 games for Bath.
Jeremy Manning, Abu Dhabi Harlequins – Known to many for being one of the Munster players who performed a haka against New Zealand, when the sides played in 2008. He has been in the UAE for the past three seasons, and this has lready been his best yet, having won the Premiership and Eden Park Sevens series.
Tim Fletcher, Heartbeat Tigers – Captained the UAE on Pitch 1 in front of 40,000 people in the world series in the past, but he has barely played rugby for two years after hip surgery. His talents should really be exhibited on a higher platform than the local open, but the former Jebel Ali Dragon is just happy to be playing.
Best Games Each Day:
9am, Pitch 2: Xodus Steelers v Krasnoyars, International Vets – There are plenty of recognisable faces in the international 10s tournament for 35-and-overs, and the Xodus Steelers are the defending champions. With the likes of former Scotland Test players Jason White, Simon Taylor and Scott Murray, they have tons of expereince. New recruit Bruce Reihana provides the flair.
3.40pm, Pitch 3: Gulf Legends v J9 Legends, International Vets – Some of Arabian Gulf rugby’s finest servants will face several stars of the past. If they come away with all their bones intact, they should be happy. Brian “The Chiropractor” Lima and Viliame “The Stretcher” Satala lie in wait with J9.
6.42pm, Pitch 1: England v Canada, Women’s World Series – The two nations met in the World Cup final of the 15-a-side game earlier this year, with England winning. Many who played that day are here this weekend.
11.14am, Pitch 1: England v United States, World Series – A first chance to see the two American fliers, Carlin Isles and Perry Baker, in harness. Mike Friday, the US coach, will be keen to get one over his former protege, Simon Amor. The duo were coach and captain when England won back-to-back Dubai titles in 2004 and 2005.
11.20am, Pitch 6: English College v Dubai College, Gulf U18 Boys – The Dubai Sevens gives ample scope to view rugby’s past, present and future. It is one of the oldest in the local age-group competition. While the rest have caught up with English College in recent years, Dubai College have maintained their status as the leading rugby school in the region.
6.31pm, Pitch 1: Women’s World Series final – Friday culminates in the final of the two-day women’s competition. Australia are the defending champions, having stunned New Zealand 35-27 in last year’s showpiece, but the likes of England and Canada will be expecting to challenge this time around.
12.30pm, Pitch 1: International Veterans final – Last year’s corresponding fixture provided one of the most enduring images in the storied history of the Sevens. J9 Legends lost out after the buzzer, before Waisale Serevi pushed the wheelchair-bound former South Africa scrum-half Joost van der Westhuizen, who has ALS, through a tunnel of applauding ex-Test players.
3.25pm, Pitch 1: Gulf Men’s League final – Jebel Ali Dragons have owned this competition for most of the recent past, with six wins in 10 years. However, they were toppled in the domestic Premiership season in XVs, then lost in the national sevens series to the resurgent Abu Dhabi Harlequins. Al Ain Amblers may also be a threat.
8.12pm, Pitch 1: World Series final – DJ Otzi. Neil Diamond. The Way to Amarillo. The Aggreko Dynamos. The scaffolding stands. The most exciting talent in rugby’s fastest format. What is not to love about the Dubai Rugby Sevens? Maybe only the final whistle, because that means it’s all over.
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