A young player practices her hurdling skills at the HSBC Rugby Festival at the Sevens Stadium on January 28, 2017 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Getty Images
HSBC Rugby Festival Dubai: Saracens’ Alex Goode delivers expertise and trophies in spite of injury
Alex Goode, the leading player in England’s top division last season, was on hand to dispense his expertise at the Middle East’s biggest junior festival this weekend — even if he had to hobble around while doing so.
The England full-back was present at the HSBC Rugby Festival Dubai 2017 as a guest of the tournament sponsors.
He carried out his commitment to present trophies and provide a coaching clinic, despite currently being incapacitated by an ankle injury.
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Goode, who plays for the European champions Saracens, was wearing a protective boot on his right foot, because of an injury he suffered earlier this month.
He admitted he had no previous knowledge of the event, but said it reminded him of his own formative years in the game — albeit far warmer.
"Having seen it, I have been blown away by it," Goode, who was the English Premiership player of the season in 2016, said of the mini and youth rugby festival at The Sevens, Dubai.
"It has made me reminisce about the times I played in mini tournaments when I was an under-8. It is very similar, just the weather is a lot nicer in the sun.
"It is great to see so many kids active. It is refreshing to see the love for the game, and it is fantastic to see the sport developing in new regions and opening doors to all those who want to give it a go."
More than 220 teams played for 30 age group trophies over the course of the weekend. The event also included a record number of Emirati children, with the UAE Rugby Federation using the event as the yearly apex of their player pathway programme.
The UAE Under 18 girls team, who became the first Emirati females to represent the country in international competition last month, were also in action.
"The progress the Emirati girls have made this year, is a testament to how much they’ve embraced our game," Apollo Perelini, the UAE coach, tweeted.
David Kotheimer, the deputy chief executive and chief operating officer of HSBC Middle East, said: "Global enthusiasm for rugby is flourishing following the Olympics and it’s important we continue to help young players achieve their goals at this pivotal time."