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There are many rugby followers in the travel retail community, some of whom plan to descend on New Zealand in 2011 to support their respective countries in the Rugby World Cup.
Now, dramatic news reaches The Moodie Blog that the industry may even have a player participating in the event.
All around the world qualifying matches are currently taking place to fill the few remaining places in the 2011 competition. They are fascinating contests that feature some of rugby’s established but second-tier teams and some true minnows – each with a great story to tell. And each underlines the innate, wonderful universality of rugby.
One of those matches was played in Dubai on Saturday between (all Persian readers look away now) Arabian Gulf and Chinese Taipei, with the former running out victorious by 44 points to 24.
Arabian Gulf’s win earned them promotion to the Premier Division for next year’s A5N tournament – which, critically, serves as an Asia qualifer for the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, the land of the long white cloud and the dark, formidable (and please, if there is a God, this time triumphant) shadow of the All Blacks.
The Arabian Gulf side (below) was skippered by Taif Al Delami, the first Arab national to captain the team, and playing on the side of the scrum was none other than Irishman Karl Sutcliffe of Muscat Duty Free.
Among the spectators was another Sutcliffe – Aer Rianta International-Middle East Managing Director John – who watched on proudly as his son turned in an outstanding performance.
Believe it or not, The Moodie Report Publisher – himself a 17th cousin, twice removed, of All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu – has played alongside Karl. Not in the Arabian Gulf team but in the Travel Retail Barbarians side that played in Cannes a few years back. In fact whenever I made a break, Karl was always on my shoulder, like a good flanker should be. The only problem was that I was sprinting and he was walking.
He (Karl not yours truly) was quite some player back then. As our exclusive photo below shows, he even once won an Ireland cap.
Today, free of the injuries that held his early rugby career back, he is even better, reliable match sources inform us.
So imagine, if you will, this scenario. Arabian Gulf defy all the odds and qualify for the World Cup in 2011. There, at the pool stage, they are drawn against Ireland (recent triumphant ‘Grand Slammers’ in the Six Nations). In the crowd is John Sutcliffe (below), whose blood is rumoured to run shamrock green. But for the one and only time in his life he can be found cheering for the opposition…
“Oi O’Driscoll, leave my boy alone!”
You read it here first.
[For a full match report on Arabian Gulf v Chinese Taipei, click on this link – http://www.irb.com/newsmedia/regional/newsid=2030603.html]