The national face a potential relegation decider in searing temperatures at The Sevens in Dubai today.
Kazakhs ready to turn the heat up on UAE
DUBAI // The country's leading rugby players would be advised to add some accessories to the usual load in their kit bags ahead of the UAE's seminal Asian Five Nations encounter with Kazakhstan this afternoon.
With a 4pm kick off planned at their home ground in the middle of the desert, they might want to pack some sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat and some factor 50 sun block alongside their boots.
The International Rugby Board's "heat guideline" rules will be in place for today's match. As such, the referee will stop the match for a two-minute water break 20 minutes in to each half.
There is a precedent for playing Tests under these conditions in this country. The early fixtures in the Five Nations Division Four at the end of last month also had water breaks.
However, this match is taking place two weeks deeper in to UAE summer time. According to weather.com, the temperature is likely to be about 38°C around kick-off time.
"The tournament is concerned with player welfare and the attractiveness of the match," Sean Moore, the operations manager of the Five Nations, said.
"We have required the IRB heat guidelines to be put in place for this game which includes [the breaks] as well as other heat prevention measures such as the placement of ice water bins and towels around the playing pitch for players to avail of to keep cool.
"The Sevens already caters for most of the other issues such as air con in changing rooms, et cetera so it should be minimally invasive on the match day."
Who the intense heat will benefit most is open to question. Clearly, as residents of this country, the UAE players will be more used to it than the Kazakhs.
However, the visitors did have a rest from playing last weekend, while the UAE played in Japan six days ago.
Alistair Thompson, the national team captain, is not sure whether the home side will derive much advantage from the early kick off.
He believes the game, which will probably decide who is demoted from the Five Nations, could be less a game of rugby than one of "last man standing".
"A couple of times this week I have looked at the thermometer at 4pm and thought, Wow, we're going to be playing in that," Thompson said yesterday.
"We just have to get used it and playing at that time, whether we like it or not. It is going to be very, very hot, we know that.
"Is it going to be an advantage for us over the Kazakhs? I don't know.
"None of us are used to playing in that temperature. It may be a case of the last man standing [wins]."
The away side are unconcerned over the issue. "The UAE players will be feeling the heat just as much as we do - we are all humans," Ildar Abdrazakov, the Kazakhstan captain, said.