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Tough test awaits Arabian Gulf squad

posted on 23/11/2006: 1650 views



The first day of the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens could not be tougher for the Arabian Gulf who will square off against some of the biggest names in the sport.



The Gulf, who is made up amateur players, has been drawn against rugby heavyweights New Zealand, Samoa and Wales in the opening pool stages, but coach Mike Lunjevich is quietly confident his men are ready for the giant-killing challenge.



"I think you will definitely see a dramatic improvement on last year," said Lunjevich, whose team will be vastly fitter thanks to months of preparation and hard work.



"Last year we had very little time to prepare for the Sevens but this season the preparation has been a lot better.



"We're definitely a lot fitter as the guys have put the work in and that will make us more competitive. Whether we have the flair and skill are two other questions which will be answered when the action starts."



Several new faces are expected to set foot on the big stage as the true-blue amateurs of the Arabian Gulf prepare for a showdown in the Emirates International Trophy.



Paul Austin and Adrian Kerr, stalwarts of the team in recent years, are missing from the Gulf line-up but as one door closes another opens, and that ensures opportunities for players who are eager to test themselves against the very best.



The squad is drawn from players based around the entire region, but that geographical spread presents another challenge with several men having to fly to Dubai from their home bases such as Doha and Bahrain to take part in squad training sessions.



"It goes without saying that dedication and a love of rugby are absolute prerequisites for Gulf players," said Gary Chapman, President Group Services and Dnata, Emirates Group.



"They always enjoy tremendous support from the crowd here in Dubai and no doubt that will help to spur them on against these world-class teams."



The Gulf has already been in action this season, finishing sixth in the 12-team Sri Lanka Sevens in the hill station city of Kandy.



But Lunjevich knows that his squad must step up several gears if they are to make an impression here in Dubai. "There is an air of anticipation, there is an edge the guys have which will help them to perform better," he said.



"The guys know what it means to perform well on the world stage and they are well aware that they will have to reach certain standards to compete against these top Sevens players."



Season and Saturday tickets for the Dubai Rugby Sevens, to be held from November 30-December 2 at the Dubai Exiles, have been sold out. Gulf News

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