Apollo Perelini could announce his 27-man UAE squad for the Asia Rugby Championship Division I tour to Malaysia today and he admits he will do so with great difficulty after a number of players impressed in Friday’s 35-15 victory over the Premiership Barbarians.
The UAE struggled initially in their first trial match against the Conference Barbarians a week ago before eventually winning 36-24 and had to again come back from a 10-0 deficit at Sharjah Wanderers Sports Club.
But they head to Malaysia in fine fettle following their two warm-up victories and Perelini is not relishing culling five names from his squad – with his squad possibly being revealed later today.
“There were a lot of good individuals,” said the New Zealander.
“I’ve got to cut the squad down in the next couple of days but I’ve picked up a few injuries I wasn’t anticipating, so I’ve got to look at the cover I’m going to need, but a lot of boys put their hands up last night which will make selection difficult.
“But it was always going to be difficult because there’s a lot of talent there. I thought Luke (Stevenson, Abu Dhabi Harlequins fly-half) really stepped up to the mark. He really controlled the game and took our boys around the field.”
Stern tests against the best of the Conference and Premiership were exactly what the former dual code Samoa star had asked for, and Perelini has enjoyed what he has seen from his players over the last two weeks.
“It was a good final preparation for Malaysia,” added Perelini, who will lead the UAE as they attempt to win Division I for a chance to play a playoff to get into the top tier ARC.
“The boys really fronted up and put into practice a lot of things we’ve been training on. Also there was a lot of buy-in from the team, considering the time we’ve had together. There’s a real attitude to play for each other.
“I want the boys to believe in what we’re doing. One thing was to challenge our attitude and character and the other thing was to get a buy-in to the team structure and how we want to play.
“The Barbarians team was a very good team. Lots of (good but) ineligible players. They played in the away strip of the UAE and it was quite nice, it was like two national teams going at it.
“It was a good night and they were well coached by Mike Wernham (Dubai Hurricanes head coach) and Mike McFarlane (Quins head coach). They had good experience and it was a great test.
“It was like a mock exam. We needed to find out what areas we can improve on and we did that against a really good team.”