x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Staying in top flight is the aim for UAE rugby

The UAE face a daunting assignment against Japan today, against the backdrop of growing dissatisfaction back at home.

Coach Duncan Hall with his side during practice at the Jebel Ali Centre of Excellence.
Coach Duncan Hall with his side during practice at the Jebel Ali Centre of Excellence.

Alistair Thompson, the new captain of the UAE rugby team, says his side are trying to build a national team who can make the country proud.

The UAE face a daunting assignment against Japan today, against the backdrop of growing dissatisfaction back at home.

A number of proven players made themselves unavailable for this Asian Five Nations campaign, citing a lack of faith in the way the game is developing here as the reason for staying away.

However, Thompson said those who have stuck around are committed to retaining the nation's place amongst the elite of Asian rugby.

"You have to aim high," the Abu Dhabi Harlequins No 8 said before his side left for the trip to Japan late on Wednesday night.

"We are trying to establish an international team that guys in the area want to qualify for, and when they do, jump at the chance to pull on the UAE shirt.

"It is our main goal to stay in the top flight, and that is certainly not unrealistic."

One of the longest-serving captains from the Arabian Gulf era has questioned the thinking behind the absenteeism, insisting that the senior players should have shown the new captain more support.

David Clark, who lives in Bahrain, has reiterated he would have loved to have been a part of this UAE side, had work commitments not made it impossible for him to be.

"Some players may have legitimate concerns, to which I am not privy, but it has always been the Arabian Gulf's motto, and should be the UAE's, to fight harder when our backs are against the wall," he said this week.

"It is disappointing to read about discontent, founded or otherwise, when our focus should be on the immediate challenge, which is fighting in a game or two of rugby against what are our most formidable adversaries."

pradley@thenational.ae

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