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The Future of Rugby? Maybe Look to the Middle East.

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This weekend, the rugby headlines are likely to be dominated by the final round of the Autumn internationals. The world's leading team New Zealand will be battling on two fronts as they will have both England and stomach upsets to contend with. However, there is world class action elsewhere in the northern hemisphere, and you won't need to be armed with a thermos and wooly jumper. The Dubai Rugby Sevens is taking place at the moment with the 16 leading teams lighting up the desert with their fast running and big hits. England have won the tournament for two years running and are going for the hat trick and will be cheered on by the large ex-pat community here.

This is the biggest event on the rugby calendar in the UAE, and is always a massive opportunity to develop the game in the region. So how do they seize on this interest and take rugby forward? Well, sometimes my job involves the toughest of gigs, and I'm currently in Dubai on a mission to find out. First stop, a seminar where various names from the sport discussed the future of rugby in the region at a seminar held in the city.

One of those was former Scotland and British and Irish Lions captain Gavin Hastings:
Hastings said: "For me the game of rugby will grow on a global basis through sevens. It's an easier game to play and understand and you just need to see tournaments like Dubai for what it brings to this region.

"The young children in this area just need to be exposed to it and although you won't inspire every child, the opportunity they could one day be representing their country at an Olympics is fantastic motivation."

His words were echoed by CEO of the UAE Rugby Federation, Ian Bremner
"The game of sevens is growing at a great rate here particularly among the local population. This weekend's Dubai Sevens plays a great role in exposing people to the game here too, it puts rugby on the map here and players aspire to play in it"

Despite the enthusiasm for the game being strongest amongst the ex-pat community the local population are certainly catching the bug. Earlier I had witnessed a coaching session led by Gavin Hastings and fellow superstar of the game George Gregan the former Australia captain. The pair were passing on their knowledge to a group of Emirati schoolchildren who were totally unphased by the legendary status of their teachers for the day. It could have been a scene from any mini rugby session on a Sunday morning - if you ignored the sunshine.

As you read this, the Dubai Rugby Sevens will be well underway, the winner may even have been crowned. This year that won't be a team from the UAE, but if the growth of rugby continues at the current rate then England may soon have another 7s team trying to wrestle away their Dubai dominance.