Epeli Lagiloa, the UAE rugby performance manager, says there is plenty of scope for optimism after his squad of inexperienced Emiratis picked up a first win in the Asian Sevens Series yesterday.
The national team finished as runners-up in the shield competition at the Thailand Sevens, after a 31-10 defeat to India in Bangkok.
They earned their place in that consolation final by beating Uzbekistan, 21-10.
It was the first time the national team had tasted success since the Rugby Federation opted to select only UAE passport holders at the beginning of this series.
“I am satisfied as the coach,” Lagiloa said. “This is only the second tournament and we have plenty of improvements to make, but we are optimistic about the future.
“I have six young men in this squad and all but one of them scored a try. That is a good sign there is potential for UAE nationals.”
The national team have suffered a string of hefty defeats since they opted to dispense with any expatriate input in the abbreviated format.
The federation have pleaded patience since severing ties with the country’s experienced overseas players, and Lagiloa believes the signs of progress are already starting to show. “I have told the board members there will be disappointing times,” the Fijian coach said.
“We will be losing many, but hopefully winning a few. At the same time, we are taking steps forward.
“All the coaches of the other teams here said we they had seen a big improvement in our play, so I am happy.”
Cyrus Homayoun, the most experienced Emirati rugby player, said the win over Uzbekistan provided a significant boost to morale.
“We needed that win,” Homayoun said. “Not beating Laos was quite unfortunate, but these are all still good teams.
“It was huge. It means that we can do it. It shows these players they can be part of this sport and have an impact on the game.
“We wanted to beat India. Unfortunately that didn’t happen, but the improvement we have made since Kuala Lumpur has been noticeable.”
Homayoun is one of the few players in the side who has experience of playing 15-a-side Test match rugby.
He feels a duty to pass his knowledge on to his young teammates.
“Hopefully us older guys can leave an impression on them, in particular with our attitude towards training, our attitude towards time-keeping on tour, and the discipline of it all,” Homayoun said.
“Once younger players come into the team, hopefully they can pass on what we have tried to teach them as well.”
Japan extended their lead at the top of the Asian Sevens Series after clinching a second successive tournament victory by beating Hong Kong in the final.