x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Marsters' degree of difficulty with UAE rugby

UAE national team coach Wayne Marsters faces a tricky situation. With his lean side just coming off the Emirates Dubai Rugby Sevens, they now face three Test matches in the span of seven days. 'We will definitely be using a rotation policy this week,' Marsters says.

UAE coach Wayne Marsters may look to integrate Emirati players into the national team for the Emirates Cup of Nations matches at The Sevens. The national team play Hong Kong on Saturday.
UAE coach Wayne Marsters may look to integrate Emirati players into the national team for the Emirates Cup of Nations matches at The Sevens. The national team play Hong Kong on Saturday.

Given that Gulf rugby has historically survived on the goodwill of a few good men, the prospect of playing three Test matches in the space of seven days is an ambitious one.

Imagine the fuss that tier one nations would kick up if they were faced with such a workload at a World Cup.

And most of those top sides have a bottomless pit of players to pick from.

In the final year of the Arabian Gulf, the then chairman of the union calculated that there were approximately 60 players of anywhere near the requisite standard eligible for selection.

That number was then slashed further when the collective union was devolved and split into individual nations at the end of 2010.

If the UAE can field the bare 15, with a couple of players on the replacements' bench to help out, by the time they face Kenya in the last of their three matches in the Emirates Cup of Nations in a week's time, they will have done well.

The UAE can only benefit from having more exposure to international rugby, but this week's four-nation tournament could be as much of a burden as a boon.

"It has been a fine balancing act," said Wayne Marsters, who has been tasked with overseeing the national sevens and XVs sides, as well as his day duties, since taking over as the UAE rugby manager in October. "We will definitely be using a rotation policy this week."

The fact this week's competition follows so swiftly on from the Dubai Rugby Sevens has provided a further logistical challenge.

So far, the national team have had just two sessions with both the backs - who made up the majority of the sevens squad - and the forwards in the same place at the same time.

Marsters faces a tough task melding the two together into one cohesive unit in time for their matches at The Sevens in Dubai against Hong Kong on Saturday, Brazil on Tuesday and Kenya on Friday.

"The game plan will be a very simple one," Marsters said.

"The big lads have been training on their own for seven weeks, and there have been a lot of handshakes, with the forwards introducing themselves to the backs.

"We have got a core of experienced forwards, but having said that we will be giving out a number of first caps this week.

"A lot of new guys will be getting their shot."

 

pradley@thenational.ae