The UAE depart for the Asia Rugby Championships in Malaysia Thursday full of confidence and will be bidding to win the competition to continue their quest for 2019 Rugby World Cup qualification.
Apollo Perelini’s men go into the tournament in fine fettel after two strong warm-up wins against the Conference Barbarians and the Premiership Barbarians.
Despite a slow start in both matches, the UAE showed resilience to close out the games in thrilling fashion and the team’s character will prove crucial when they step out against Malaysia, Sri Lanka and the Philippines over the next nine days.
“I can’t wait to go now. It’s been a long year waiting for another tour. It’s a step up this year but the squad is a step up too,” said Dubai Hurricanes captain Dave Knight.
“The back line is a lot stronger this year and that should help us. We’re confident for sure, we stepped things up against a very talented Premiership Barbarians side and now we are looking to go another level in Malaysia.”
One of the men who will be at the fore of UAE’s dominance up front is AD Saracens flanker Jaen Botes.
He said: “I can’t wait to put the hard work to the test and enjoy a great tour with great people. We have worked hard for this and we are sure it will pay off.”
The team fly to Kuala Lumpur ahead of their first game against hosts Malaysia on Sunday.
The winner of Division 1 will earn a place in the top tier of Asian rugby, where they will face the likes of South Korea and Hong Kong.
Should they progress to this stage of the qualifying progress, they will have two more phases of qualification in 2018.
Sunday, May 14 – Malaysia v UAE
Wed, May 17 – Sri Lanka v UAE
Saturday, May 20 – UAE v Philippines