The Dubai Rugby Sevens, taking place from December 2-4 this year, is a sporting spectacular that has established itself as one of the UAE’s most popular events. As always, this year’s tournament is the season opener for the Sevens World Series, an ongoing event that takes place in locations as far-flung as Hong Kong, Las Vegas and Edinburgh. This year’s series will be particularly significant in the light of the recent announcement that rugby sevens will debut as an Olympic event in Rio 2016 – a telling indicator of just how far the sport has come. But this isn’t to say that the Dubai Sevens is for rugby fans alone – there’s something for everyone, whether it’s the fast-paced on-field action, high-jinks in the stands, or the family entertainment taking place throughout the weekend.
Where can I get tickets?
At time of going to press there were still tickets available at our very own Time Out Tickets (www.timeouttickets.com, 800 4669). Entry is free on Thursday, while tickets cost Dhs170 for Friday, Dhs230 for Saturday and Dhs300 for all days. Children under 12 get in free if accompanied by an adult.
Getting there and back
The Sevens Stadium is located on Al Ain Road (Route 66), which can be easily reached from the World Trade Centre roundabout. The stadium is well signposted and boasts ample parking, making driving a particularly convenient option. At the end of the day, a free bus service will be provided to spirit revellers to a number of destinations across Dubai. The buses will run on a continuous loop, starting from 5pm on Thursday and 7pm on Friday and Saturday. At time of writing, the confirmed drop-off points are BarZar (Madinat Jumeirah), Irish Village, Chi @ The Lodge, Double Decker and Barasti. Family drop-off points are: Dubai Festival City and Dubai Media City.
Avoid the queues
The first international match (Fiji v Portugal) starts at 9.20am on Friday morning, meaning if you want to get your money’s worth you’ve got to be there early. Gates open at 7.30am – if you want the best seats, you’ll have to arrive soon after.
What to wear
Dressing for the Dubai Sevens takes on a different dimension thanks to the increasingly popular tradition of fancy dress. Organisers are encouraging fans to make an effort, with prizes for best costumes – this year’s theme is ‘the movies’. However, anything goes (within reason), so expect to see Wonder Women, Bananamen, and whoopee cushions (yes, really) loitering around the stands. Those dressing to impress would do well to visit Mr Ben’s in Al Ghazal Mall, Satwa (04 345 3577), The Party Centre in Garhoud (04 283 1353), or Whitestar in Beach Centre, Jumeirah (04 344 6628).
While the Sevens is a good place for good-natured rabble rousing, it’s also a great family event. The Air BP is the designated family stand, and there are plenty of kids’ activities around the Village, including face painting, balloon benders, a kids’ corner (complete with minders), bouncy castles and ball pits, a bungee runner, a dunk tank and an inflatable gladiator arena. Adults can also enjoy inflatable sumo suits and other games, as well as X-Box gaming and the chance to win a fancy car. Needless to say there will be plenty of food and beverage stands.
They may be the minnows of the rugby sevens circuit, but we have to give a shout out to the host team. The Arabian Gulf consists of representative players from the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar and Doha, among other Gulf nations. Because of recent changes in rules by the International Rugby Board, this year will be the last outing for Arabian Gulf, so be sure to cheer them on. See page 128 for more on the team.
England have named a virtually identical squad to last season, the only change for the 2010-11 World Series being the inclusion of Harlequins’ Ollie Lindsay-Hague. The team has always been in the running, finishing
last year’s series in fifth place and the 2008-09 series in third. Their experience could make them an outside favourite to triumph in Dubai.
The Kiwis are always a force to be reckoned with, largely thanks to their legendary coach, Gordon Tietjens, who has been in charge for 17 years. They’re the most successful team in the World Sevens Series and a good number of All Blacks stars have come through the sevens side. The Kiwis lifted the Cup at last year’s Dubai Sevens, but lost out on the series title to Samoa.
Kenya’s fairytale ascendency from underdogs to one of the top rugby sevens teams makes them a hit with the crowd, whatever country they’re playing in. Last year was a milestone for the team as they reached the cup final in Adelaide, before being beaten by South Africa in the final. Their fast-running style makes them one of the most enjoyable teams to watch.
Last year’s World Sevens Series champions are the form team, largely thanks to IRB World Sevens Player of the Year Mikaele Pesamino. The 26-year-old is one of the game’s top try scorers, boasting an electric pace and deft skills. The Samoan ranks also boast the likes of Lolo Lui and Alafoti Fa’osiliva, who were also in the running for the Player of the Year award. Don’t be surprised to see Samoa lift the Cup in Dubai this year.