In the run-up to the much-anticipated Dubai Rugby Sevens, we follow a school team that symbolises everything the UAE represents, particularly diversification and a sense of unity. As the spotlight shines brightly at the top end of the sports spectrum, Sun & Sand Sports aims to capture the story of the underdog, taking a look at the roots of the sporting world and the challenges faced at the junior level.
Founded in 1999, Jumeirah College was built along what was soon to become a busy residential area between Al Wasl Road and the E11, with little room for expansion in terms of sports facilities. Seeing this as a challenge to rise to, the teams found ways around this – finding available spots to train in, remaining focused on investment in their people – the students and the faculty. And invest in their staff is exactly what Jumeirah college did with the introduction of Matthew Richards as 1st XV Rugby Coach.
As an ex-professional rugby player with a career that has seen him play with the Newcastle Falcons and the Australian Western Force, his experience at such a level has influenced and inspired the boys in their game, as they explain how their tactics and training sessions have dramatically changed to include team socialising, weight training and a total shift in game plan from ‘running through’ to ‘intelligent play of creating space.’
Matt talks to Sun & Sand Sports about his goals for the team and how he intends to tackle one of the bigger problems faced at a junior rugby level, where pupils often face the pressure to choose a sport in which they will only feel a large involvement should they reach the first team. Matt’s plan is simple: to encourage more interaction between all age groups with an academy style of training. By having everyone train on the same day and at the same time, the level of interaction with the younger teams builds a higher skill set earlier on – leading to a much more developed 1st XV team.
This focus on developing from the roots up is exactly why Sun & Sand Sports has chosen to sponsor Jumeirah College with sports brand BLK, a name that is already passionate about investing in clubs and schools – encouraging the yet-unknown champions of the future. Worn by international and champion teams across all codes of rugby, the BLK kit has been championed by the likes of the Queensland Reds, Western Force, Osprey and a number of international teams who played in this year’s Rugby World Cup – including USA, Samoa, Fiji and Romania.
We headed to one of the team training sessions to see how the JC boys train and gel on the pitch. Catching a few of the players off the pitch, we talk about the lead up to the Dubai Rugby Sevens, their anticipation, level of excitement and what it’s like to play in front of a large crowd. Matt talks about his key motivating tactics for the team, which involve more off-field training and group activities that help to bind the team together with the likes of the gym, tactical sessions and out-of-school BBQ’s. The way in which they have been training for the upcoming Rugby Sevens tournament has greatly changed from a simple run-through mind-set, to a more tactical approach which focuses on avoiding and creating space – taking a far more intelligent approach to the game.
We will be following the team through their games at the Dubai Rugby Sevens this weekend and we’ll report back on how they did with some feedback from the coach. We’ll soon be stocking BLK on our website, so watch this space for the new brand at Sun & Sand Sports. Watch our exclusive interview with ex Rugby Union player Steve Thompson MBE as he talks us through his experience as BLK brand ambassador and the wider plans to build the rugby community in the UAE.
For more rugby fitness tips have a read of our features on how to train for the rugby pitch; whether you’re looking for a beginner’s guide, or more advanced training advice you’ll find all the information you need to get started on the Sun & Sand Sports blog.