A new, old face Taif Al Delamie is anxious to join UAE team
DUBAI // An Omani national, who was the only Arab to captain the Arabian Gulf, is hoping for the chance to pull on a UAE shirt – three years after he last played international rugby.
Taif Al Delamie, who captained Jebel Ali Dragons to a domestic treble last season, had hoped to qualify immediately for the new representative side after the Gulf union was disbanded in 2010.
He was living in Ireland at the time but was about to relocate to Dubai, having represented the Arabian Gulf with great success in the sevens and XVs formats.
The UAE Rugby Federation requested he be considered as a special situation for the new national team and took the case to the International Rugby Board.
That was unsuccessful, though, and Al Delamie has had to wait for three years as a resident in Dubai to become eligible.
Still only 28 and one of the outstanding players in a Dragons side who swept all before them over the past two seasons, he is aiming for selection for the UAE’s summer Test series.
The national team will play in the third tier of the Asian Rugby Championship, along with Thailand, Malaysia and Chinese Taipei, in May.
“I’m keen on giving it a go, having just qualified in December,” Al Delamie said. “It seems like there are a few good quality players putting their hands up for it this year, and it is definitely something I want to be involved with.”
Roelof Kotze, the performance manager of UAE rugby, will oversee a second get-together for aspiring representative players in Dubai on Sunday.
The UAE XVs programme will then have a break until the domestic season is finished and the players have got their club commitments out of the way.
Planning for the tour to Kuala Lumpur started last month, which far exceeds any previous lead time for the 15-a-side game here.
That reflects a renewed enthusiasm for the format, with a raft of players having recently become eligible.
“A lot of guys have realised there is an opportunity for them [to play international rugby] and the vibe at the sessions has been very positive,” Kotze said recently. Al Delamie, whose Dragons side face league-leading Abu Dhabi Saracens in the Gulf Top Six today, played representative rugby when it was at its zenith in this region.
He was a mainstay of the Arabian Gulf team that played at the 2009 Sevens World Cup in Dubai.
The Gulf XVs team of that time also secured wins over Hong Kong and South Korea in the Asian Five Nations to maintain a place in the top tier of continental rugby.
The transition to a single-state UAE side thereafter proved problematic, though, particularly in the XVs format, where the side have had successive relegations.
But Al Delamie said the side can be competitive again given the quality of players who are available for Kotze to select from.
“I have a few more years of rugby left in me, and now that I qualify I want to be involved,” Al Delamie said. “Once they disbanded the Arabian Gulf and I found out I didn’t qualify, I really did not follow it too much over that period, especially as results were poor and a lot of players weren’t putting their hands up.
“There seemed to be a lot of negative vibes around the national set up across the board.
“Things seem different now.
“Let’s see. It is always good fun to play with players from other clubs and put on the same jersey to represent where we live.”
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Updated: February 12, 2015 04:00 AM