Ross Combe is likely to be restored to the UAE's midfield and is looking forward to hosting South Korea at the Al Ain RFC grounds, writes Paul Radley.
Asian Five Nations: No place like home for UAE's Ross Combe
DUBAI // Seeing as the Asian Five Nations involves some fixtures between nations separated by over 7,000 kilometres, the competition's participants are conditioned to long journeys.
However, one UAE national team player will be grateful that everyone else is coming to him this weekend, as Al Ain plays host to its first Test match since 2008.
Ross Combe is likely to be restored to the UAE midfield for Friday's meeting with South Korea after recovering from the shoulder injury which ruled him out of the tournament opener in Hong Kong on Saturday.
The fact this Test is on his home patch at the Al Ain Amblers rugby club means the 20-year-old centre will be afforded a rare chance to relax in the build-up to it.
"It is a two-hour, 10-minute drive for me to training in Jebel Ali. That's if I leave early and miss the traffic," said Combe, who is the second international from the Amblers, after Quihen Marais.
"I try to make practice as much as I can because getting picked initially and then playing for the national team means a lot to me."
Although Al Ain is mainly known for its all-conquering football team and their massive following, the rugby club has grown markedly over the past decade.
Combe, who debuted for the UAE in the Cup of Nations, in Dubai in December, and was arguably the find of the tournament for the home team, reckons the national team will be well backed tomorrow.
"It is really great having a fixture at your home ground, knowing the pitch and everything about it so well," he said. "Our crowd will be there and the whole Al Ain team will be there so it will be good. There will be a big turnout."
The Garden City was a relative regular on the international rugby stage not so long ago. The Arabian Gulf faced Hong Kong in the first Asian Five nations fixture at Al Ain Amblers five years ago.
Not long before that, the former governors of the game here had tried to tap into the passion for sport in the city by hosting a World Cup qualifying fixture between the Gulf and South Korea at the Sheikh Khalifa International Stadium.
As such, Korea have actually played more Tests in the city than the home side have.
However, Duncan Hall, the UAE performance manager, is confident his side are going to feel the benefit of strong home support.
"It is good to take the game out of Dubai," Hall said. "Al Ain have a good, strong rugby club with a good feeling. It is a twilight match and we want to use every advantage we can. We want to be well prepared. If there are some advantages for us on the day, well that is good, too."
What Asian Five Nations
Who UAE v South Korea
When 5pm, Friday
Where Al Ain Amblers RFC
UAE squad Renier Els (captain), Chris Jones-Griffiths, Graham Murphy, Brett Bowie, Dan Boatwright, Jonathan Greenwood, Oliver Delapp, Anthony Murphy, Edward Talbot, Mark Weissenborn, Jamie Clarke, Brett Williams, David Matasio, Antoine Berteuil, Chris Burch, George Perkins, Harry Woods, Ross Combe, Cyrus Homayoun, Luke Mohring, Jono Bester, Ray Gilburt, Sean Hurley
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