Apollo Perelini says he has been hugely encouraged by the hunger being shown by his UAE squad despite the fact the domestic rugby season in the Emirates is over.
The 2016/17 campaign culminated with the UAE Rugby Finals Day at Dubai Sports City on April 7, but a select few will be heading east to Malaysia as the UAE look to win the Asia Rugby Championship’s Division II.
Perelini has been training with his squad since the first few weeks of 2017 but his players will get their first test tomorrow (Friday) when the face a UAE Conference XV at The Sevens.
And despite being near the end of a long, arduous season and with the temperatures in the Emirates starting to rise as summer approaches, Perelini says there has been no sign of slacking from his 32-man squad.
“They’ve been so keen. You can tell by the attitude, there’s a bit of swagger about them and they’re a close group,” said the New Zealander.
“Right from the word go they were able to bond even though they were playing against each other for their clubs. To train over the time, they’ve got a really nice bond and the camaraderie amongst them is excellent.
“Like I said before we’re stronger than last year. We have some of the top players in the Premiership in the squad and putting them together has been a pleasure and quite enjoyable for me and my coaching staff.
“But We won’t really know how far we’ve come until we’ve played the game against the Conference side.”
And he’s expecting a tough test against the best the Conference has to offer.
“I’m hoping it’s a really good test,” he said.
“I’ve asked the coaches to pick the best players and I hope it’s a really good game for our build-up for the tournament. We’re going to use it to see how our systems have come on, how they get used to them and how we play under pressure.”
Five of Perelini’s current roster will be dropped after their second friendly, against a Premiership XV next Friday, as the former dual-code star trims his touring party to 27.
And the former dual code Samoa international admits culling five players will be tough.
“There’s a few players I haven’t seen enough of,” he added.
“They’ve not played enough games for clubs so I want to give them a chance and these two games are a chance to show me what they can do.”