Thompson restores 'pride' for UAE in battle with Kenya
DUBAI // Alistair Thompson, the UAE No 8, insists that the national team are better placed to compete with Asian rugby's elite, despite a chastening Cup of Nations campaign this week.
The UAE lost all three matches in the tournament they co-founded and hosted, and shipped in excess of 50 points in each.
However, Thompson points to the fact that the national team did not exist 12 months ago, yet still finished third in the HSBC Asian Five Nations in May, as reason for optimism.
"It is a development phase," the Abu Dhabi Harlequins back-rower said.
"I'm sure if people read in the paper that we have been on the end of two 60-point losses, they are wondering: 'What is going on out there?'
"We are already further ahead than we were last year" in preparation for the Asian Five Nations "because at this point last year the squad weren't even together."
Thompson, who powered over for one of the UAE's two second-half tries against Kenya yesterday was arguably the discovery of the tournament for the home side.
The workload of three matches in seven days has tested the resources of all four sides in this competition, yet Thompson was indefatigable.
It was quite a feat for a player who was enjoying a belated introduction to international rugby, at age 33, and who had major surgery to repair his anterior cruciate ligament 13 months ago.
"I thought Ali Thompson has been outstanding," said Wayne Marsters, the caretaker coach of the national team.
"He scored a fine try today and he deserved that. We wanted to blood some players off the bench, otherwise he would have played every minute of every match.
"On 33-year-old legs, coming back from an ACL reconstruction, playing like he did was outstanding."
Thompson, a biology teacher at British School Al Khubairat, has relished his chance to play international rugby.
"It has been a long week, but not many players in the world get to experience international rugby, so you have to jump at the chance whenever you can, be it 18 years old or 33," he said.
Daniel Heal, the Jebel Ali Dragons hooker who was captaining the UAE for the first time, said his side had clawed back some damaged pride by the way they performed against Kenya, who finished second in the competition.
"This is going to be a building block for us for the Asian Five Nations," Heal said.
"We had two important words before the start of the game – 'pride' and 'respect' – and I think we went some way to restoring that today."
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