x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

UAE rugby union chief calls for a rethink to structure of Asian Five Nations

An overhaul of the continent's flagship competition will be discussed at a meeting of the Asian Rugby Football Union next month.

The UAE were relegated from the top tier of Asian rugby union following defeat to the Philippines in Manila earlier this month and will spend next year, and perhaps longer, in Division I. Mike Young for The National
The UAE were relegated from the top tier of Asian rugby union following defeat to the Philippines in Manila earlier this month and will spend next year, and perhaps longer, in Division I. Mike Young for The National

DUBAI // An overhaul of the continent's flagship competition will be discussed at a meeting of the Asian Rugby Football Union (Arfu) next month.

UAE rugby officials yesterday acknowledged they might consider turning down promotion back to the Asian Five Nations, in the case of winning Division I one next year, if the existing competition structure stays the same.

The national team were relegated from the top tier of Asian rugby last week with a negative points differential from four matches of 217.

Japan, the continent's No 1 side by a distance, won their sixth successive title with a positive points advantage of 308.

Given the massive disconnect between the top three sides in the competition - Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong - and the rest, it has proved impossible for developing rugby nations such as the UAE to compete.

Ian Bremner, the chief executive of the UAE Rugby Federation, said Asia's governing body have to address the disparity in the structure of the competition.

"If we go straight back up again we are going to be faced with the same thing: three teams who are very hard to beat," he said.

"It is a huge ask for amateur players to put themselves up against three teams that there is not much chance of succeeding against. It is a cruel competition.

"Is it an option to step back? We would like to have enhanced capabilities if we went back up to go and have another crack."

Bremner was part of the Arfu committee, as part of his previous role within Singapore rugby, when the Five Nations was conceived in 2008.

He says he doubts whether the tournament is fulfilling its goal of raising the standards of nations beyond Japan.

With HSBC's title sponsorship also due for renewal, options for an alternative format will be discussed at an Arfu meeting in mid-June.

"There has to be a rethink of the competition next year for a number of reasons, with the sponsorship near the end of its term," Bremner said.

"From a neutral point of view, A5N as it stands is not the type of competition it was envisaged to be."

Duncan Hall, the UAE performance manager, insists a year spent in a lower tier of competition could have positive ramifications for the game here.

"While we want to be involved at the top end, guys want to have good memories of victories, not just valour in defeat," Hall said.

He said "evidence shows" that when the multinational Arabian Gulf side played in Division I in 2009, "lots of guys came out of the woodwork".

"But the prerequisite for selection is still that you have to play club rugby," he added. "You have to come to training and you have to be part of the team. You have to want to commit.

"The prerequisites for selection will remain the same but the level of competition will be more manageable. We will be playing teams that are beatable."

 

pradley@thenational.ae

 

@ For more on RUGBY, visit thenational.ae/topics