Sean Carey’s decision to ditch Dublin for Dubai pays off with place in UAE rugby squad
DUBAI // A player who has already played in one form of the World Cup for Ireland is now plotting a course to doing the same as a UAE international.
Sean Carey has been selected for his debut tour for the national team, when they play in the Asia Rugby Championship Division 1 in Malaysia, starting on Sunday.
It is 11 years since Carey played at fullback for Ireland, alongside the likes of future British & Irish Lions Cian Healy and Keith Earls, in the Under 19 World Championship, when it was staged in Dubai and Sharjah.
Having subsequently played professionally in Ireland and France, Carey opted for a new course in the game when he moved to Dubai in 2013.
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After excelling first with Dubai Hurricanes, and then with Dubai Exiles this season, he was picked by coach Apollo Perelini for national team duty as soon as he became eligible.
Reflecting on that 2006 tournament, Carey said: “We played against a lot of players who have gone on to do big things, like Danny Cipriani, Ben Youngs, and Mathieu Bastareud and Morgan Parra from France.
“It was a good experience. It was my first time in the UAE, and it set me up for coming back here because it was such a great experience.
“I didn’t even know they had rugby over here back at that time, but I saw life was here was pretty decent, and I looked to come back about four years ago.”
He moved to the UAE just months after winning the All Ireland Championship with Lansdowne, who had Mike Ruddock, the former Wales coach, in charge at the time.
It meant giving away his semi-professional rugby career, as well as a job in a bank, to move to a country with relatively minimal rugby pedigree.
“I had nothing lined up, I came out here looking for a job,” Carey said.
“There are a lot of Irish people here, and obviously I saw a lot of their pictures on Facebook having a good time at the beach.
“While it was raining back in Dublin, that helped make my mind up. Playing rugby here has given me a second chance at being on an international team, and it gives you the chance to travel, which many guys back home might not have been able to.”
According to Jacques Benade, the Exiles coach, Carey’s prowess could be vital to the UAE’s chances of success in Malaysia.
“Sean is a talented player, unbelievable with ball in hand, and can turn a game,” Benade said.
“He has brilliant speed, brilliant skill and his awareness make him such a quality player. For the UAE, if they need something different and someone who can change the game in an instant, I think Sean is the right guy to pick.
“He is very dangerous with ball in hand, and is very keen. When he started with us at the start of this season, his main target was to play for the UAE, and I’m delighted he has been able to achieve that.”
The squad fly to Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday afternoon, ahead of a competition that is crucial to the UAE’s ambitions of reaching the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
It is a convoluted qualification process that could still involve as many as 12 more matches. The winner of Division 1 will be promoted to the top tier of Asian rugby, to play against Hong Kong and South Korea, with two more phases to qualification that follow that next year.
Asian Rugby Championship Division 1, Ipoh, Malaysia:
Sunday, May 14 — Sri Lanka v Philippines, Malaysia v UAE
Wednesday, May 17 — Sri Lanka v UAE, Malaysia v Philippines
Saturday, May 20 — UAE v Philippines, Malaysia v Sri Lanka
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