x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Shaheen aim to be on song for landmark match against Afghanistan

All-Emirati side, who take on newly-formed Afghanistan tomorrow, have been teaching senior players to sing the national anthem.

The UAE will be represented by two sides tomorrow for the first time ever. Mike Young / The National
The UAE will be represented by two sides tomorrow for the first time ever. Mike Young / The National

DUBAI // The national team's exhaustive preparations for this year's Asian Five Nations have even extended to them rehearsing the national anthem.

For the first time in the fledgling history of UAE rugby, the country will be represented by two sides tomorrow.

The senior XV meet Hong Kong in continental rugby's top flight, while an Emirati development side are also set to take on a newly-formed Afghanistan side.

The emergence of the UAE Shaheen side, whose name translates as "Falcons", has not just been a boon for the game here in terms of playing numbers.The side of indigenous players have also been able to assist their senior colleagues with the traditionally tricky task of anthem singing.

"It is a great sign for the game here [that Shaheen are fielding a side on the same day as the full team]," said Alistair Thompson, the UAE captain.

"It is always difficult for rugby here, because football is by far and away the most popular sport in the country. We have had a couple of sessions beside the Shaheen boys, and we had some national anthem practice with them last week.

"Our guys will get out there and support them just as much as hopefully they will do in our game against Hong Kong."

Shaheen have played together as an exclusive Emirati entity in domestic competitions on a variety of occasions.

They have toured together at tournaments on the continent, too, yet to date have always been bolstered by a clutch of experienced expatriate players when they have played against national teams.

"This is a major step in UAE rugby's strategic development plan to have a larger number of experienced Emirati players to call on to represent the UAE in future tournaments," said Qais Al Dhalai, the general secretary of the UAE Rugby Association.

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