x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Ties against Afghanistan will help progress of UAE Shaheen

The emerging side will play three matches as a precursor to the senior national team's Asian Five Nations opener against Hong Kong.

DUBAI // Seldom do the emerging Emirati development side, known as the UAE Shaheen, enter the playing field knowing they have more rugby experience than their opposition.

However, the nascent side for nationals will be granted the chance to bring their developing rugby nous to bear when they face a new Afghanistan side in a series of exhibition sevens matches next month.

The Shaheen side, who have been a work in progress for the past 18 months, will play three matches against the Afghans as a precursor to the senior national team's Asian Five Nations opener against Hong Kong on April 27.

"Within sevens, especially against Afghanistan and with some other development matches, these are all winnable games," said Duncan Hall, the UAE performance manager.

Hall will oversee the emerging side when they play at this weekend's Bahrain 10s.

"Everyone has an equal dilemma at that level because there is not a lot of knowledge of the game.

"The challenge is to find players who can play through the centre of the field and be making decisions, which is a matter of time. It is the way rugby evolves."

The Shaheen versus Afghanistan matches will form part of a lengthy afternoon of international matches at The Sevens on April 27, culminating in the 8pm kick off between the national team and Hong Kong.

That Top Five encounter will be preceded by the third-place play-off, and then final, of the Asian Five Nations Division Four competition, which involves Jordan, Uzbekistan, Lebanon and Qatar.

"The gaps are closing at every level as a result of the intensity of the HSBC A5N," Jarrad Gallagher, the International Rugby Board regional general manager for Asia, said.

"This can only be a boost for rugby in the region."