What to watch
Australia v Portugal
‘Portugal are seen as underdogs yet they’ve played on the sevens scene for some years. They always seem to produce thrilling games, especially on day one and the Australians normally fire a bit better later in the tournament. I fancy Portugal for this one.’
Tonga v Arabian Gulf
‘Tonga play a tight game of rugby but we should be able to compete if not win. Tonga are very physical but when they get disjointed there are moments when you can get in there and rattle them. They play like the Fijians a little bit, very hot headed. When it’s going their way they’re fantastic, but when someone gets in and about them, it all goes wrong quite quickly.’
Fiji v USA
‘USA have improved hugely over the past two years I’ve been watching them. Fiji are another team who get better later in the tournament so USA have got a big chance in this one.’
Scotland v South Africa
‘Scotland always play well against South Africa, just from my experience when I was on the Scotland side. South Africa should come through but Scotland will give them a good scare, I think.’
England v Kenya
‘You never know what Kenya are going to do. They might turn up and rattle England. Kenya are always crowd pleasers, they’re nice guys and I think they could do quite well. We played against the Kenyan squad in Wellington and they just score tries out of nothing. Then make some huge mistakes. From a crowd’s point of view they’re ones to watch.’
New Zealand v Tonga
‘A big hard-hitting game, it’ll be an indication of how New Zealand will perform in the rest of the tournament. New Zealand are looking quite good at the moment.’
England v USA
‘That should be a really good, tight game. I’ve seen both sides play before and they’re strong set-ups.’
England v Russia
‘Women’s rugby is quite big in Russia and it’s a very physical game. There’s quite a lot of the women players who play on the second strings circuit tour. It’ll be very physical.’
New Zealand v South Africa
‘New Zealand have got a good women’s system and South Africa I’m not too sure about. That should be a good game, but I think New Zealand will win.’
Charlie Keenan used to represent Scotland on the international Sevens circuit but, after playing pro rugby for Edinburgh in Scotland, Gran-Parma in Italy and El Salvador in Spain, he has taken on the role of coaching the Arabian Gulf Rugby Football Union squad in Dubai. ww.agrfu.com
Humphrey Kayange – Kenya
Fresh from a very successful tour that took his team to San Diego and Wellington, the Kenyan skipper Humphrey Kayange talks to us about his hopes for the team, the pressure of international rugby played part-time and those hard fought wins against South Africa and New Zealand on this recent tour.
How did it feel beating two of the world’s best – South Africa and New Zealand?
It’s really a great feeling, we came close to beating both teams a while ago so we perhaps knew we could do this. We played our hearts out and came out on top.
What do you think of Kenya’s chances at the World Cup this year?
We’re looking to top our pool. It will need a lot of hard work, but it’s looking clear, we just have to put in the work during the tournament and see where it gets us. We’ve said that we’re aiming to qualify in the quarterfinals and that’s a milestone we want to achieve.
Is there an international team that you really respect?
The Fijians are very talented, they play good Sevens rugby. They’re all bold players, they have their flair and there’s talent throughout the team. It’s good watching them play because you never know what’s going to happen. Their composure on the pitch is remarkable.
How do you find it balancing work and training for the games?
We have to go back to work now after the tour, some of us back to school. It’s a tricky balance to maintain. Doing something else throughout the day – maybe working from eight until five – and then training in the evening. It’s hard to manage your job while still going out there and representing your country well.
Training with the Arabian Gulf men’s team
My lungs are screaming. My face glows an over-exerted shade of red. But as I charge around a pitch on The Sevens ground, desperately trying to make sense of the madness of the touch rugby game I’ve been launched red face first into, I can’t help but take a moment to be amazed at it all.
The Arabian Gulf Rugby Football Union squad have not long since returned from a tour of Malaysia and New Zealand, but have been training relentlessly in preparation for their first ever appearance in the World Cup this year. That’s nine months of alcohol abstinence, three to four severe training sessions a week juggled with jobs and, given their automatic entry into the competition, a whole heap of pressure.
After what seems like a lifetime of drill training, I stagger over to the water table and talk with a few of the lads about the tournament. They explain that being non-pro has made preparing for the event tough, having to work a day job and then rushing off for an hour and a half of training most nights. This isn’t the South African or the Australian team, where life is rugby, the AGRFU players (comprised of Australians, South Africans, Brits, Kiwis, Irish and an injured Emirati) have to make their life around rugby and that’s got to be respected.
The IRB Rugby World Cup Sevens starts on March 5 at The Sevens stadium on Al Ain Road. Tickets are available from Time Out Tickets. Call 800 4669 or visit www.itp.net/tickets to book.
And don't forget, we'll be there all weekend taking pictures so get dressed up and get snapped. Log onto www.timeoutdubai.com from Sunday onwards to see our Rugby galleries.
Close to 150 buses will be available to transport fans from The Sevens venue to five locations across Dubai. Drop-off points are Media City, Barasti, Double Decker, The Irish Village and Chi@TheLodge.These buses are free of charge and will be running from 5.30pm on March 5, 6 and 7.