Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

The UAE players are committed to the cause

The amateurs have to balance their professions with their international careers.
The UAE side will look to put the loss to Japan behind them as they face Kazakhstan today.
The UAE side will look to put the loss to Japan behind them as they face Kazakhstan today.

Having been put to the sword so comprehensively by the professionals of Japan, the UAE national team were this week back preparing for today's relegation showdown the only way they know how: by doing a full shift at their day jobs.

The likes of Imad Reyal, the full-back, and Dave Matasio, the flanker, have been back logging on to their computers in their roles as IT specialists.

After returning to Dubai from Fukuoka via Seoul on Monday, Sean Hurley's work as a retail consultant took him to Doha and Muscat this week.

The winger, who will start from the bench this afternoon, is hopeful his client from Spain, who has arrived for the weekend, enjoys rugby as he is having to take a break from work for a couple of hours to face Kazakhstan.

In Abu Dhabi, Monday was probably a good day for pupils at the British School Al Khubairat to remember their biology homework as the master in charge had good cause for being tired and grouchy.

After the national team's flight back from Japan touched down on the tarmac in Dubai at around 4am, Alistair Thompson, the captain, was due back in the classroom in Abu Dhabi by 7.15am.

Given the fact rugby remains strictly amateur in this country, the top players have to be reliant on the goodwill of their employers to pursue their international ambitions.

"[Thompson] puts a huge amount into rugby as well as his usual teaching duties at the school and obviously for our boys it's a big plus," Paul Coackley, the principal at BSAK, said.

"For us to have the UAE captain on our team is a great bonus, and for him playing in Japan will be something he will remember for the rest of his life."

In among their work commitments, the national squad have managed two one-and-a-half hour long training sessions at Jebel Ali this week, ahead of today's game.

The Abu Dhabi-based players, in particular, are probably sick of the journey between the capital and Dubai by now, but their captain appreciates their commitment.

"A lot of the guys have to take annual leave to play, while some employers don't regard international duty as annual leave," Thompson said.

"There is a whole mixed bag and it is just another example of the commitment the boys are making to play for this team."


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