When Glenn Moore arrived in the Emirates in 2014, the sociable Northern Irishman had no idea of rugby’s popularity in the Gulf or whether he would be able to even find a regular game.
For his three-year anniversary, the Belfast native celebrated in style by becoming eligible for national team selection and being called up to Apollo Perelini’s UAE squad.
Now he is dreaming of earning a Test cap for his adopted nation as they go in search of an unlikely place at the 2019 Rugby World Cup by winning the 2017 Asia Rugby Championship Division I later this year.
Perelini has been getting his tournament preparations underway in recent weeks by holding preliminary sessions with players old and new at The Sevens, with the UAE looking to build on convincingly winning Division II last May.
The UAE thrashed hosts Uzbekistan and then Thailand last May to earn promotion to Division I, where they will play Malaysia, Sri Lanka and the Philippines in just over three months’ time.
It’s early doors but Dubai Exiles captain Moore is hoping he can be on the plane to Kuala Lumpur.
“It’s funny how things happen,” said Number 8 Moore, who works in corporate governance for Dubai Parks and Resorts.
“I always came out and thought I’d play rugby socially. I didn’t have any aspirations to play for the UAE, but now it’s in my sights it’s something I’m really focused on and something I’d really like to do.”
Moore led Exiles to a thrilling West Asia Championship and UAE Premiership double last season, and the 32-year-old hopes the 2016/17 campaign can end up with an actual Test cap.
“I just qualified in January so fingers crossed I’ll get picked and go on tour in May,” he said.
“You never know how long you’re going to play on for but I knew this year I qualify and I thought there might be an opportunity. I’d heard a lot of guys saying it was a fantastic experience and I thought an international cap on the CV would look fantastic.
“Fingers crossed it goes well, I can stay injury free and make the team for the tour. At home I got a cap for the Irish club international side and that was the highlight of my rugby career. Coming out here and being able to say I’ve got an international cap would be a nice memory.”
Moore is the latest name available to UAE rugby performance manager Perelini, while Abu Dhabi Harlequins fly-half Luke Stevenson is also eligible this year, giving the New Zealander an increasing arsenal of weapons with which to attack Division I.
Although the tradition of expats representing the Emirates is nothing new, doing so has carried more significance in recent years, with rugby in the UAE taking increasing steps towards becoming professional in the region.
So much so that, now, Moore admits he’ll be lucky to make the squad.
“It’s been very positive so far but relatively low key and just meeting all the boys,” added Moore.
“It’s nice to meet boys you play against week in week out. Share a laugh and some experiences with them. You recognize faces so it’s nice to learn names. It’ll keep building up until the squad is picked and then it will be a lot more specific.
“We want to keep building and making sure it is going to be a much more professional set-up. These days you’d be lucky to get in the squad, so fingers cross I make it.
“There’s competition in every positon and we have some fantastic players who won’t even make the squad. I think previously boys turned up after the season and might not even have played during the season but now it’s not like that.
“If you’re not involved now it’s going to be tough to get involved later on, and that’s fantastic for the UAE.”
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