Former Suffolk rugby union player wins an international cap - for Qatar!

Gav Millar, left

Gav Millar, left - Credit: Archant

Playing international rugby was probably the last thing on Gavin Millar’s mind as he stepped on the plane to Qatar with his young family, ahead of a new career opportunity, in 2008.

Having become a popular figure at Hadleigh Rugby Club, the Lancashire-born winger probably thought his move to the Gulf State – hardly a hot-bed for rugby union – would see his participation in the oval ball sport end.

Five years later however, and at the age of 37, Millar was being presented with his first cap as a Qatar international, prior to his adopted country’s clash with another rugby minnow, China, in the HSBC Asian Five-Nations competition in Kuala Lumpur.

A 76-0 victory followed before Qatar clinched promotion to Division Two of the Asian Rugby Football Union (ARFU) with a 13-7 win over Guam in Kuala Lumpur. They will play Thailand (relegated from Division One), Malaysia and Iran next year.

Those successes will boost Qatar’s international ranking with World Cup qualification the eventual aim and Millar, formerly a civil engineer in Ipswich with AMEC, having moved to Hadleigh in 2002, said: “My debut was incredible.

“I scored within two minutes against China who were favourites to win the competition, so much so that the press had written us off.

“But our team was confident and fully believed in one another. Our itinerary was planned by the hour and those four days as an international athlete is something I will never forget.

Most Read

“The match itself was played in torrential rain which we are not used too.

“This made it seem like even more of a special occasion. When we play in Kuwait they rake the desert and play on sand. Normal winter match temperatures are around 30 to 35 degrees.”

He added: “Just to be selected to the squad was fantastic though and I was so proud to tell the family I had made the grade.

“The proudest part for me was in a small room at the team hotel, where the starting team was announced and I was handed my shirt.

“Then, after the game I found out there had been a live twitter feed of the game. My family had been sat watching the feed, and saw the details of both tries I scored which made me feel very proud indeed.”

It was all a far cry from Millar’s previous experiences as a rugby player, which culminated in a spell at Hadleigh, a club he has very fond memories.

“Hadleigh was a fantastic family club and Charlie (son) played with the minis before we left,” said Millar, who now plays his club rugby for Doha.

“The coaching there (Hadleigh) turned me from an old-fashioned player and brought me in to the new era, while the club developed dramatically during my time there, moving from Suffolk League into the London leagues.

“Unfortunately in 2007 the club fell on hard times and almost closed but I was part of a fantastic group who hung on and rebuilt the men’s team and now, with current coach, Adam Miles, the team is as strong as ever. What the club has achieved is remarkable.”

Just as remarkable is the rate in which rugby is growing in Qatar, although Millar believes he is unlikely to ever reach a World Cup with the Asian nation.

“I was very surprised at the standard of rugby in the Qatar and the whole Gulf region,” he explained.

“There is a strong ex-pat influence from all over the world, while Saracens and Harlequins have feeder teams in the league where some of their development players are based. There are only currently three nationals in the Qatar side.

“With rugby sevens featuring in the Olympics, Qatar has recognised the sport officially and there are three club teams in the country.

“As for World Cup qualification, it’s very early days for Qatar as a rugby nation as they do not have an IRB ranking.

“I am sure that by the time they reach that stage I will be well retired.”

With an international cap to his name, is there any chance Millar will be returning to Hadleigh?

“We don’t have any plans to return just yet, and have acclimatised to the searing summer heat,” said Millar.

“We’re very fortunate, as the quality of life here is very good, especially for the kids. Schooling facilities and activities are very high.

“It was a big step to take but my wife, daughter, son, the dogs and terrapins are here, the whole gang!”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter