Dubai: Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins will grace the field of the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens this weekend — not as part of a change of sport — but as a waterboy.
Wiggins is the favourite to take this year’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year award after becoming the first British cyclist to win Le Tour in July, before following up with time trial gold at the London Olympics in August.
The 32-year-old is in Dubai to support the Joining Jack squad, who will play in the International Veterans division in support of a charity raising awareness of muscular degenerative disease Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.
Wiggins will be supplying refreshments to the likes of World Cup winner Jason Robinson and rugby league legend Martin Offiah in the all-star squad, which is set to do battle with 15 other teams in their division.
As a side show to the main IRB Sevens World Series event this weekend, there are a total of 12 other competitions featuring 200 teams across all age ranges and abilities, playing across five other pitches. They start from Thursday and culminate with the finals on Saturday.
The most prized and hotly-contested divisions will be the International Men’s and Women’s Invitationals, followed by Gulf Men’s League, Open, Social and Veterans divisions, plus U18s boys and women’s categories.
There are also International Men’s and Women’s Opens and social, veteran and U18s invitationals, incorporating teams from all over the world, as well as giving ample opportunity to domestic and regional sides.
Dubai Samurais are the Men’s International Invitational defending champions, while Netherlands hold the women’s title. Closer to home in the Gulf division, Jebel Ali Dragons are the men’s and women’s holders and remain the teams to beat.
A Sevens competition has been taking place in Dubai for the past 43 years, growing exponentially since Emirates airline began its sponsorship 25 years ago and the start of the IRB Sevens World Series in 1999. In 2008 it moved to the new Sevens Stadium on Al Ain Road, which was purpose-built for the 2009 IRB Rugby Sevens World Cup, which was won by Wales. The success of this competition was influential in getting sevens rugby accepted as an Olympic event for 2016.