Time Out interviews former England international Tom May about his Everything4Rugby rugby camp in Dubai, set to return in 2016. Find out how to get involved
As the final whistle blew on his glittering top-flight rugby career in 2015, former England international Tom May knew his next challenge could be his toughest.
After 17 years of putting his body on the line for Newcastle, Toulon, Northampton and London Welsh, the rugby star knew he had to tap into his renowned versatility to carve out a career upon hanging up his boots.
Coaching was, to May, an obvious way to extend his links with the game, unearthing and nurturing rugby talent both in the UK and abroad.
Last month, the 37-year-old brought his Everything4Rugby camp (set up while he was still a pro) to Dubai for the first time, enlisting the help of two fellow former stars to bring out the best in the city’s kids.
“It’s unique that children should have a chance to spend so much time with the likes of Carl Hayman and Mark Cueto – normally it might be a chance meeting,” he tells Time Out.
“The experience was a memorable one for those coming along. They got to know the coaches so well over the three days and had the chance to find out so much more than they would in one session.”
Although still a relatively niche sport in the UAE, May believes there is enough enthusiasm for rugby to boost its popularity here. “I’m not sure it will ever compete with football, and due to the geography of the place, it will always be up against it with regard to cricket,” he says.
“Having spent some time in Dubai last month, though, it’s clear to see that there is a huge passion for the game at both junior and senior levels, which means there is a functioning community there that can develop the sport and the skills of those playing it in the UAE.”
And with ex-New Zealand star Apollo Perelini already a major part of the Dubai scene and his fellow former All Black Henry Paul set to take the helm at Jebel Ali Dragons in July, May believes such high-profile presences will drive UAE rugby on.
“The experience and the pathways they put into practise over time will help develop UAE rugby and make it stronger season by season,” he says. “It’s also important for young kids to be exposed to good coaching so that they can go on and represent the country further down the line. There are more and more Emirati and Middle Eastern players involved in the game, which is great to see. Once those pathways I mention are in place, I think their exposure to the game will increase.”
May wants to build on the success of this year’s Everything4Rugby camp by bringing them back to Dubai in the near future. Maybe such invaluable input will spark a complete transformation in the how the sport is viewed here.