x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Emirati represents new face of UAE rugby union at Asian Five Nations

UAE Rugby Association prepare for first competitive match since taking over from the now-defunct Arabian Gulf union.

The changing face of rugby in the Gulf was personified yesterday when Cyrus Homayoum, an Emirati player, represented the new UAE Rugby Association (UAE RA) at the launch of the 2011 Asian Five Nations in Hong Kong.

The UAE will play their first match in competitive rugby in Sri Lanka on April 23 after assuming the place of the now-defunct Arabian Gulf union. And they will stage their first training camp this weekend under the guidance of Bruce Birtwistle, the erstwhile Gulf coach, who successfully reapplied for the position in charge of the newly-formed UAE side.

They will travel to Sri Lanka, who were promoted to Asian rugby's top tier last year, with a squad that is likely to draw on new recruits from the emerging pool of Emirati players for the first time. Homayoum, who first learned the game from his expatriate schoolmates at Dubai College, was one of five nationals who played for a UAE/Gulf hybrid team at the Sri Lanka Sevens at the end of last year.

"Everything is coming along now, the clubs are on board and there is a lot of competition for places," Ghaith Jalajel, the UAE RA development officer and Dubai Exiles hooker, said. "We want to build on the success the Arabian Gulf had in the A5N last year and make sure we stay up again. We want this competition to put us on the map in Asian rugby."

The UAE RA hope to enter two sides of indigenous players into the Arabian Sevens tournament, scheduled to take place on February 4.

 

pradley@thenational.ae