UAE heads to Cyprus for Five Nations warm-up
DUBAI // The UAE have confirmed a cosmopolitan squad for their training trip to Cyprus this weekend, including an Emirati, a German and a New Zealander based in Qatar.
The 26-man tour party, which is captained by Renier Els, will likely form the basis of the squad tasked with maintaining the UAE's place in the top flight of Asian rugby next month.The national team will be pitted against Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Philippines in the Asian Five Nations, which starts in mid-April.
Before then, they face warm-up matches starting against the Cyprus A team this weeeknd on Saturday, then against a select side made up of the best remaining players in the UAE, managed by the former captain Alistair Thompson, next Friday.
Cyrus Homayoun, the Jebel Ali Dragon who was the leading player in the Emirati national team who finished fourth in the Emirates International Sevens tournament earlier this month, returns to the senior side. Mark Weissenborn, a German national, and his Dubai Hurricanes colleague Ollie Delapp are new additions to a squad that retains a large core who played in the Cup of Nations in late December.
Duncan Hall, the UAE performance manager, says the trip to Cyprus will provide his side with some much-needed quality time together.
"Because it is a short haul, we have the capacity to have two days of training, gym work and a number of on-field sessions in a sports hotel," Hall said.
"The appeal to us is that we could have time together, which is a luxury we didn't have last year and it is difficult to get.
"Our training preparation sessions are limited to an hour and a half because of the way the guys have to go up and down the highway. We are looking forward to it and it's a whole new adventure."
Jamie Clarke, who represented the UAE in the Asian Five Nations and the Cup of Nations in 2011, has a chance to impress following a lengthy spell out of the side after he moved from Abu Dhabi to Doha.
Clarke's return adds to a powerful battery of back-row forwards, with Brett Williams also returning, alongside Els and Delapp.
"There are a few logistical issues with Jamie [working in Qatar], but we are happy to bring him in, provided he can get the right preparation," Hall said.
"He is working hard on his fitness and we are working hard because we want him in the squad."