x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

UAE rugby union team to unleash 'unknown' Frenchman

Antoine Bertheuil will make his first start in a UAE shirt against South Korea at the expense of Patrick Hegarty, who drops to the bench. Audio interviews

Duncan Hall, the UAE rugby union performance manager, speaks to his players at Jebel Ali Centre of Excellence during a training session. Jaime Puebla / The National
Duncan Hall, the UAE rugby union performance manager, speaks to his players at Jebel Ali Centre of Excellence during a training session. Jaime Puebla / The National

DUBAI // A player without a domestic club will begin his international career proper this weekend, after being handed his first start for the UAE against South Korea.

Antoine Bertheuil is listed as playing for Dubai Frogs, a side who started last season in the second tier competition but folded earlier this year.

He has been named at scrum-half for the final Asian Five Nations fixture in Seoul, with Patrick Hegarty, who was the man of the match in their last outing, moving to the bench.

"I am lucky that rugby has always been my passport," said Bertheuil, 29, who has also played in Spain, Turkey and the top amateur league in his native France.

"To be honest, when I arrived in Dubai this was not in my plans. I had started a new job with a lot of travelling, and just went for social rugby to meet other people in the French community.

"After three years I knew there was a chance to play for the UAE, but it only came into my thinking about a year ago. Now I wish to play more games in the future, too."

The elevation of Bertheuil, who played a brief part in the Five Nations loss in Japan as a replacement, to the starting XV is apt reward for a player who has battled back to fitness from a snapped cruciate ligament a year ago.

"Antoine is an unknown package for all of us," said Duncan Hall, the UAE performance manager."He has a very good clearing pass, probably the strongest pass of all the guys."

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE