Speaking with Mathew Turner

Paul Radley speaks with the 26-year-old wing.
Mathew Turner of Racing Foundation in action at Dubai Sevens. Satish Kumar / The National
Mathew Turner of Racing Foundation in action at Dubai Sevens. Satish Kumar / The National

Three years ago, Turner was as good as untouchable at the Dubai Rugby Sevens. The same was the case on Friday, although the surroundings had altered slightly. Paul Radley reports from The Sevens.

Returning champion

The 26-year-old wing was the Player of the Tournament when England last won the Emirates International Trophy, in 2011. He is back this weekend playing third-tier rugby for Racing Foundation from Lagos in the International Open tournament. “I did it for seven years, and that was enough,” Turner said of playing on the world series, after his current side breezed through the pool stage yesterday. “Maybe I could come back but I am trying to venture off into new adventures within rugby.”

Home from home

The South Africa-born winger has a coaching assignment planned in Sri Lanka, and is seeing the world with various invitational sevens sides. Coming to the UAE feels like returning home, though. “I always loved playing in Dubai,” he said. “It felt like you were playing at Twickenham because of all the expats here. It is probably my favourite tournament of the year and it is strange sitting in the stand and watching the same guys playing. But I have had my time.”

New perspective

“You see the other side of the tournament,” Turner said of playing away from the glare of the 45,000 who prefer to watch their rugby on the main field. “When you are an international, all your focus is on the inside of the stadium. You go from the stadium to eat food, then go back to the stadium to play your game. Being on this side of the tournament, you get to experience what is going on on the outside. I have been watching an Under 18 game, and I didn’t even know they played U18 matches here.”

Old pals act

Turner may not officially be part of their gang anymore, but he has stayed in touch with his former England colleagues. “I am long-term friends with those boys,” he said. “I have been out for cups of coffee with them, have met up with them to chat about how things are going. They are in cheerful moods, because we have usually done well here.”

Sartorial infamy

At least some good comes from being out of the spotlight. Less people get to see if you are wearing dodgy kit, for starters. When Turner had his finest hour in Dubai in 2011, the playing shirts were a tangerine abomination, while his boots were hot lava. Anything, therefore, would be an improvement. “I’m not so sure,” Turner said, pointing to the baby blue and pink lining on the sleeves of Racing Foundation’s red shirts.


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Published: December 6, 2014 04:00 AM


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