UAE rugby coach Apollo Perelini pleased with talent pool now available to him
DUBAI // Apollo Perelini said the UAE are well placed to succeed in their Asian Rugby Championship campaign next month on account of the fact the domestic game is the highest standard it has ever been in this country.
The national team will play Guam on May 18 at Tashkent in Division 2 of the continental competition with a potential final against the winner of Singapore v Uzbekistan to be played three days later.
The UAE remained in the third tier of Asian competition after finishing second in Malaysia 12 months ago.
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Their three rivals in Division 2 are new to the tier. Singapore, who beat the UAE in a Test at Dubai two years ago, have dropped down. Guam and hosts Uzbekistan were each promoted.
Perelini, the coach, is optimistic about the challenge ahead on the basis of two training sessions the national squad have had together so far.
“We don’t want to go backwards from where we were last year, and this is the first time we have been able to choose everyone from the UAE Premiership,” Perelini said.
“The nice thing is the quality of rugby in the Premiership has been the highest I have ever seen it.
“Where the Conference is now is where the Premiership used to be.
“The quality of players who have played is a lot higher this year. For me to be able to choose a squad from Premiership sides has been brilliant.
“A lot of players want to be involved in what was started last year.
“Back then was the first time a lot of first-team players had put their hands up to be involved and play, and this time a whole lot more have followed.”
The UAE’s chances of success at Tashkent have been given an endorsement by Jacques Benade, the coach of Dubai Exiles, the UAE and West Asia champions.
The Exiles won a domestic and cross-border double this season with a largely youthful side founded on many UAE-qualified players.
Abu Dhabi Harlequins, with whom the Exiles vied for both titles, also fielded a number of players who were reared in their own mini and youth system across the course of the campaign.
The national team will have a younger pool of players eligible for selection than at any time in the past, and Benade says that bodes well for UAE rugby.
“I think this is a year they can target to do really well,” Benade said.
“From what I can see from rugby this year, there is good talent and good quality.
“From our team, there are a number of boys who have been here from school, went away to university for some years, and are now back working here.
“If Apollo is picking the right guys, which I think he will having heard him explain what he is trying to do, I think they can have a really excellent year as a UAE team. There is no doubt about that.”
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