Step 1 Buy tickets This year’s Dubai Rugby Sevens starts on Thursday November 29: doors open at 7.30am. However, there are no international matches on this day, which perhaps explains why tickets are free. The real action starts on Friday November 30: doors open at 7.30am. Tickets cost Dhs240 in advance, or Dhs300 on the door, and the same prices are applicable for Saturday December 1, and doors open at the same time. However, if you’re planning to visit on both Friday and Saturday, save money by buying a season ticket for Dhs400 in advance, or Dhs500 on the door. Tickets can be bought in advance at www.timeouttickets.com.
Step 2 Get your fancy dress sorted The Sevens is synonymous with silly fancy dress, so if you haven’t started planning your costume already, now’s the time. Mr Ben’s Costume Closet at Al Ghazal Mall in Satwa (04 346 3494) is a Dubai institution when it comes to novelty attire – it’s packed to the rafters with gorilla suits, Batman outfits, chicken costumes and plenty more, as well as accessories such as wigs and oversized specs. Alternatively, great fancy-dress costumes can be bought online at www.escapade.co.uk, which ships them to the UAE. Those wishing to forego fancy dress should opt for lightweight clothing, plus sunglasses and plenty of sun cream – especially if you choose to sit in the DHL stand, which basks in the sun for most of the day.
Step 3 Get there and settle in For those who aren’t already acquainted with the Sevens ground, it can be reached easily by taxi along the Dubai-Al Ain Road (E66). All taxi drivers will know it, and the journey is likely to take about 40 minutes, costing around Dhs80. For those driving themselves, there is extensive free parking at the venue. Doors open as early as 7.30am, although we’ve found the ideal time to arrive is between 10am and noon, just when the on-pitch action is hotting up and you’re still able to choose your seating. In terms of where to sit, the Air BP family stand (the nearest stand to the ticketing gates), is soft drinks-only. The DHL stand at the opposite end of the pitch tends to be more raucous, while the MMI stand at the side of the pitch furthest from the ticketing gates tends to host corporate guests.
Step 4 Know what’s happening on the pitch It’s remarkable how many people go to the Dubai Sevens without actually watching any rugby (despite repeat visits, one Time Out staffer has never made it inside the stadium). To get the lowdown on the teams to watch, we had a chat with Shane ‘Junior’ Thornton, a former All Blacks Sevens international and current coach of Jebel Ali Dragons. His prediction for the cup final of the men’s competition is New Zealand v South Africa. The former team were the 2011-12 winners and boast IRB International Sevens Player of the Year Junior Tomasi Cama (son of Fijian sevens legend Tomasi Cama), while the latter are a fast-improving team thanks to players such as fleet-footed Cecil Afrika. However, it’d be foolish to write-off England, who have won the past two Dubai Sevens.
Thornton also notes that there is more excitement than ever surrounding the 2012-2013 IRB Sevens Series thanks to rugby sevens making its Olympic debut in the 2016 Games. ‘There’s a buzz, and it’s been good to see more women and men playing rugby [as a result], which is great for the sport,’ adds Thornton. ‘It’s a great achievement to represent your country when there are Olympic medals up for grabs.’ To add to the excitement, this year’s event features the inaugural international women’s tournament. However, as Thornton points out, one great shame is that there’ll be no UAE team at this year’s event: the disbanding of the Arabian Gulf team means that, at present, thei can’t field a strong enough team. Their place will be taken by Spain, who make their Dubai Sevens debut.
Step 5 Enjoy the off-pitch entertainment You don’t have to like rugby to enjoy the Dubai Sevens. While the atmosphere inside the stadium is phenomenal, there’s plenty to do outside. The Rugby Village is always a hive of activity – the kids’ area features inflatables and bouncy castles, and there are a number of rugby-related games (try the ever-popular passing challenge). There will also be temporary-tattoo artists and face painters, as well as live dancers and drummers at the Coco Cola stand. Food options will exceed the usual pie and burger offerings: Lafayette Gourmet at The Dubai Mall will be on hand to serve quality fare. Conveniently, there’ll even be a phone charging station, just in case you find yourself separated from your friends with a flat mobile battery.
Step 6 Catch the rest of the rugby As well as the international action in the main stand, there’s a festival of rugby taking place on the pitches around the main stadium. There will be 13 amateur competitions being played from Thursday to Saturday: the Gulf Men’s League, the Gulf Men’s Open, Gulf Men’s Social, Gulf Veterans 10s, Gulf Under 18s, Gulf Women, International Invitation Men (comprising players who compete at county or provincial standard), International Invitation Women, International Open Men, International Open Women, International Social, International Veterans, and the International Under 18 Boys.
Step 7 Continue the party all night Once the rugby has finished, the music kicks off. The Rugby Rock festival will take place at the ground on Friday and Saturday night, while there will be free bus transport to various destinations around the city, such as family drop-off points Dubai Media City and Dubai Festival City, as well as prime post-Sevens party places Barasti, The Irish Village, Chi@The Lodge and Nezesaussi.
Games to watch! South Africa v England 11.20pm, Friday 30 Fiji v Kenya 6.58pm, Friday 30 Men’s international final 8.33pm, Saturday 1