October 8, 2009, Dubai : “It doesn’t get any better than Willie John McBride and Colin Meads,” was the general consensus at this year’s Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens Long Lunch.
And true to form, two of the finest rugby players in history, Irish icon McBride and All Black legend Meads ensured the annual event, which acts as the start of the countdown to the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens, was a resounding success.
The over 700-strong audience hung on every word from the legends of the 1960s and 1970s with both players reminiscing about their heydays.
First up was McBride, who earned 63 caps for Ireland and 17 for the British and Irish Lions in an incredible career that spanned 13 years.
“It’s great to be in Dubai and to meet my old friend Colin Meads again,” he said. “It’s a lot quieter and friendlier now than it used to be,” he added of his old rival. McBride went on to recount the first match he played against Meads, as well as many of the Lions tours that followed, saying it was a privilege to have played against and with some of the best players to have graced a rugby field.
“That’s the great thing about rugby football – you create a bond, a brotherhood and you take that with you into life. It’s marvelous to be a part of it – that brotherhood and that ethos. That’s what I treasure,” said McBride.
“I just hope the guys who are playing now, and 30 years from now will have as many good memories, as much good fun and as many good friends, like Colin Meads, as I do now. If so rugby will remain a great game,” he added.
Next to the Long Lunch podium was Meads, who was voted as New Zealand’s player of the century, and represented his nation an impressive 55 times in Test matches.
“I’ve heard about the Long Lunch so it’s wonderful to be here and to meet up with old players,” he said. Meads proceeded to give his own version of his first encounter against McBride and kept the audience in stitches with accounts of various rugby anecdotes from his career.
What made the event all the more memorable was the fact that two such great rugby legends, though they were at the height of their careers over 30 years ago, could still entertain and hold the imagination of a young, modern-day Dubai crowd.
Acting as MC for the event was Dick Tayler, a champion in his own right, who powered his way to Commonwealth Games gold in the 10,000m in 1974.
Once the afternoon’s proceedings drew to a close, a total close to Dh120,000 had been raised for charity. This money will go to the PRA Benevolent Fund (to support rugby players who have been forced to retire from the game due to injury or illness and the families of players in the event of their untimely death), Wooden Spoon (dedicated to helping children and young people all over the UK and Ireland to live happier, richer lives) and the Tsunami fund (through the New Zealand Red Cross) for those who were affected by the recent Tsunami in Samoa.
Tickets for the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens, which takes places from December 3-5, are still on sale at The Sevens ground on the Al Ain Road, Emirates headquarters, the Dnata Travel Centre on Sheikh Zayed Road and numerous Costa and MMI outlets as well as online through www.dubairugby7s.com and by calling Ticketline on 8004669. The Costa outlets where tickets are on sale are: Mall of the Emirates, Dubai Mall, Festival City and Al Wahda Mall, Abu Dhabi and the MMI outlets where they are available are: Al Wasl Rd, Ibn Battuta, Mall of the Emirates and Sheikh Zayed Road. The public is reminded that a valid alcohol licence is required to enter any MMI outlet.
For more details on the tournament, log on to www.dubairugby7s.com