x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Captain Dan Heal positive about UAE rugby future

Backline for Asian Five Nations campaign next year could have yet another new look as players become eligible.

Dan Heal, arms stretched, led the UAE’s forward pack well during the recent Emirates Cup of Nations competition.
Dan Heal, arms stretched, led the UAE’s forward pack well during the recent Emirates Cup of Nations competition.

DUBAI // With the first leg of the road to the 2012 HSBC Asian Five Nations navigated, albeit in haphazard fashion, the players of the UAE national team can turn their minds to the next step: asking their employers for more time off.

The country's leading players will have gone to their various places of work sporting a variety of ailments this week, after a bruising debut campaign in the new Cup of Nations competition.

None of them, however, shirked the workload of three games in seven days, along with day jobs.

"We did a full day's work [on] Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, then had to drive and play the game [against Brazil] about 45 minutes after you were sat down at your desk at your construction site," said Dan Heal, who captained the UAE against Kenya on Friday.

"It is not ideal, but that is why we do it. We love the game and we would play every single day if we had to. We would do it out of pride and pure love of rugby.

"We would have liked to have had a win, but this is very much a building team. When we get to the A5N we will have improved ten-fold from this week."

Heal was part of a forward pack which functioned well in the Cup of Nations.

However, much work needs to be done further back if the UAE are to compete in Asia's premier competition next year.

The backline for this tournament was totally different to that which represented the UAE in their first A5N campaign earlier this year.

Given the players who are set to return, or become eligible to play next year, it is conceivable that it could be entirely overhauled again come the end of April.

Murray Strang, the fly-half, and Tim Fletcher, the full-back, are shoo-ins for the starting line-up, but missed this tournament due to injury. Andy Russell and Patrick Hegarty, two of the outstanding backs in domestic rugby, complete their three-year residency qualification soon.

And Taif Al Delamie, an Omani national who formerly captained the Arabian Gulf, is also hopeful of receiving permission from the International Rugby Board to play for the UAE.

"There are lots of gaps which need filling, because we did not have the depth across the park," Wayne Marsters, the interim coach, said.

Marsters will look forward to the chance to begin the job he was hired to do - that of UAE rugby manager - after enduring a torrid time in caretaker charge of both the sevens and XVs side for the past six weeks.

The Rugby Association hope to recruit a new, high-profile performance manager at the start of next year, but Marsters hopes to maintain some involvement with the senior team.

pradley@thenational.ae


””Follow The National Sport on @SprtNationalUAE & Paul Radley on @PaulRadley