DUBAI // The UAE saw their chances of success at the first West Asia Sevens double before a ball was even kicked on Friday after Iran pulled out of the competition at the 11th hour.
The Iranians, who would have been among the favourites to win the competition, opted not to travel to Dubai on account of visa issues, a problem which had also afflicted their challenge in the final leg of the Asian Sevens Series recently.
In Iran's absence, the UAE Rugby Federation hastily assembled a second-string Shaheen side, including a few willing expatriate players from Dubai Wasps.
The rejig may have devalued the tournament slightly from an international perspective.
But the powers-that-be here will be delighted at the chance the new look afforded for extra-novice Emiratis to have a taste of match action.
The federation has entered a senior side in the International Men's competition at the Dubai Rugby Sevens later this month, while a fully Emirati Shaheen side will play in the Gulf Men's tournament.
"We want to put two sides out at the Dubai Rugby Sevens so we need players to get chances like this," said Duncan Hall, the national performance manager, who is in charge of the UAE side this weekend.
"We have lots of fast wingers and some guys who can play in the forwards, but our challenge at the moment is to find playmakers to play in the middle of the field."
A 31-0 win over Shaheen followed by a 12-5 success against Saudi Arabia meant the UAE qualified through to today's final day in second place in the competition.
Lebanon were by far the strongest side on the opening day of competition and the will face Shaheen, who finished Friday's pool matches placed fourth, in the first match on Saturday.
The final is at 12.40pm.
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