x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Disappointment in Hong Kong as UAE is told to refocus on Rio 2016

Mohammed Shaker, the UAE manager, blamed the national team’s last-place finish in Hong Kong on Sunday on their disappointment over news they will not play at next month’s Asian Games.

The UAE Rugby Sevens team, in  green, were disappointed in hearing they had not been entered to compete at the Asian Games in South Korea ahead of playing in Hong Kong for the Asian Sevens Series. ‘The boys were upset with the news and did not perform well,’ Mohammed Shaker, the UAE manager, said. ‘To hear that beore the tournament upset them and left them feeling down.’ UAE Rugby Federation
The UAE Rugby Sevens team, in green, were disappointed in hearing they had not been entered to compete at the Asian Games in South Korea ahead of playing in Hong Kong for the Asian Sevens Series. ‘The boys were upset with the news and did not perform well,’ Mohammed Shaker, the UAE manager, said. ‘To hear that beore the tournament upset them and left them feeling down.’ UAE Rugby Federation

Mohammed Shaker, the UAE manager, blamed the national team’s last-place finish in Hong Kong on Sunday on their disappointment over news they will not play at next month’s Asian Games.

The Emirati side had planned their sevens programme over the past two years with the intention of building a side for the Games in South Korea.

However, the UAE were not entered into Thursday’s draw for the event at Incheon, where they would have been pitted into a repechage round with the likes of Pakistan, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.

The National Olympic Committee (NOC) has instructed the team to focus on attempting to qualify for 2016 Olympic Games at Rio de Janeiro instead. The news of the decision hindered the morale of the side, who only found out on the eve of this weekend’s Asian Sevens Series competition in Hong Kong.

The national team ended up finishing last, scoring just one try over the course of four matches and conceding 160 points.

“This was one of the reasons we did not do so well here,” said Shaker, the long-serving rugby administrator and former UAE Shaheen player. “The boys were upset with the news and they did not perform well. It was terrible. To hear that before the tournament upset them and left them feeling down.

“We have been planning for that for ages, but at the end of the day, it is the Olympic committee’s decision, not ours.

“Now, our main objectives for this year are to go to the pre-qualifier for Rio 2016.”

The national team had undergone an extensive touring programme in preparation for Incheon, including off-season trips to Milan and Amsterdam this summer.

Roelof Kotze had been recruited from South Africa as the new UAE performance manager with the intention of fast-tracking novice Emirati players to be ready for the Games.

“Our main focus is how do we prepare our sevens team to take part in the Asian Games,” Qais Al Dhalai, the UAE Rugby Federation secretary general, said at the start of last season.

Now, though, the NOC wants the federation to concentrate on the ambitious goal of trying to win qualification for the Olympics in Brazil in two years’ time.

There is to be one place guaranteed for an Asian nation at the 2016 Games, where sevens will debut as an Olympic sport by way of a 12-team competition.

The continent’s representative is likely to be decided by next year’s Asian Sevens Series.

The UAE will have to attempt to pre-qualify for that series via events against the continent’s lower-ranked rugby nations via two events later this year.

“It was a tough tournament especially because a lot of them are just young players,” Shaker said of this weekend’s campaign in Hong Kong.

“The average age is just 20 or 21 years old. It is good experience for them, they get far more from playing in official tournaments like this than friendly matches.”

pradley@thenational.ae

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