Raft of new caps softens blow of retirements ahead of Tunisia friendly
DUBAI // The UAE have tempered the loss of two highly experienced former captains by naming the most talented starting XV of their short history to date for Friday's Test in Tunisia.
Mike Cox-Hill, the towering second-row forward who was the last captain of the Arabian Gulf and the first for the UAE, which replaced the Gulf in international competition in 2011, has retired.
"I have started a new role [at work] and haven't got the time to commit to running around Asia playing rugby," said Cox-Hill, whose armband will be assumed by Alistair Thompson.
"I have been lucky to have done most things that I could have done on a rugby field, other than win a World Cup or beat Japan. I have had a good knock."
Dan Heal, the Jebel Ali Dragon who served as captain in the UAE's most recent Test in the Emirates Cup of Nations at the end of last year, has also made himself unavailable as he is set to relocate back to the UK.
"I'm sure the team will do well [in the 2012 season] and there is a lot of talent in the side," said Heal, the hooker, who assisted with the squad's scrum training on Monday night.
There are a raft of new caps in the starting XV to face Tunisia, most notably the richly gifted back line trio of Patrick Hegarty, Murray Strang and Andy Russell, each of whose eligibility qualification has been eagerly awaited.
Duncan Hall, the UAE performance manager, said his new-look side will make up for their lack of caps with the skill they possess.
"The quality and determination is there despite a lack of Test match experience," the former Australia forward said.
"Friday will be a good test of how our players can adapt and perform under pressure."
SQUAD LIST: For Friday’s UAE friendly match in Tunisia:
1 Graham Murphy (Harlequins); 2 Jonathan Greenwood (Wanderers); 3 Dan Boatwright (Hurricanes); 4 Greg Thompson (Hurricanes); 5 Simon Osborne (Hurricanes); 6 Alistair Thompson (Captain, Harlequins); 7 Sam Cook (Harlequins); 8 Brett Williams (Exiles); 9 Patrick Hegarty (Harlequins); 10 Murray Strang (Harlequins); 11 Mohammed Al Sulaiman (Wasps); 12 Andy Russell (Dragons); 13 Imad Reyal (Exiles); 14 Sean Hurley (Dragons); 15 Joel Pikari (Harlequins); Replacements: 16 Charles Lilley (Harlequins); 17 Chris Jones-Griffiths (Harlequins); 18 Tristan Barnett (Hurricanes); 19 Mohammed Hassan (Wasps); 20 Abdulla Al Nuaimi (Wasps); 21 John Fawls (Exiles); 22 Steve Smith (Hurricanes)
Updated: April 3, 2012 04:00 AM