x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

SOS call to boost UAE rugby player pool will be worth it

Outstanding rugby expatriates should be coerced into playing because their adopted country needs them.

Mike Riley played a stellar role in the last Asian Five Nations campaign for UAE.
Mike Riley played a stellar role in the last Asian Five Nations campaign for UAE.

One win can mask many ills. If Mike Riley had not played so well and laid the platform for victory over Kazakhstan in last year's Asian Five Nations, the UAE might well have been relegated from Asian rugby's top flight.

Instead they finished third and all was well with the world. Was it? Judging by the slump in results, playing resources and morale since, it is anything but. So we are only just over a year into the life cycle of UAE - as opposed to its forebear, the Arabian Gulf - rugby? That is a hackneyed excuse.

Rugby has been a thriving expatriate sport here for more than 40 years. The new organisation were never starting from scratch.

The player pool diminished slightly when the Gulf was disbanded, but there is still so much wasted talent out there.

Outstanding players like Marcus Smith, Chris Gregory and Riley should not be allowed "to step back" from the game.

They should be coerced into playing because their adopted country needs them. Handled correctly, they would not need much persuading. Gregory already answered one SOS last year, as a favour for the then coach Wayne Marsters, in December's Cup of Nations.

So instead of lining up against Japan, one of the country's best players is getting ready to kayak around the Gulf instead. If the national team really want success they need to seek out these players, not let them drift away.

pradley@thenational.ae

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