DUBAI // Christina Noble began the defence of their International Veterans title yesterday with all the elan you would expect of a side saturated with Test experience.
The charity side opened the Dubai Rugby Sevens with the first match on Pitch 2 by easing to a 40-0 win over Swansea University Old Boys. They then trounced Brussels Barbarians 59-0, during which Malcolm O'Kelly, their 92-cap former Ireland lock, popped up on the left wing to score.
The only surprise was the fact that Dan Luger, the former winger who was part of England's World Cup-winning squad in 2003, did not feature on the scoresheet.
After a 15-year career that took him to some of Europe's top clubs, Luger retired two years ago following a stint at Toulon, the big-spending French side where Jonny Wilkinson now plays.
He is happy for the chance to be back playing in Dubai. "I have been looking forward to reaching the age limit [35 and over] to play in the vets and getting involved," Luger said. "These are guys who haven't seen each other for years but played together on England tours or British Lions tours or in club rugby.
"It is great to see each other again in an environment that is chilled out. You don't necessaril y get the chance to do that when you are playing professional rugby."
The three rivals to Christina Noble's crown - the Bali Legends, Xodus Steelers and Wooden Spoon, led by the former London Wasps hooker Trevor Leota - also recorded 100 per cent starts.
In the Gulf Men's event, Dubai Dragons claimed a 35-12 success to kick off their pursuit of a third consecutive title, despite conceding the opening score against Muscat.
"It was a slow start, but we are confident and looking to make it three from three," Trent Eastgate, the Dragons captain, said.