The UAE will take on powerhouses Japan and Hong Kong when they kick off their Asian Games campaign in Indonesia on Thursday.
Apollo Perelini has taken a 12-man, all-Emirati squad with him to Jakarta for the 2018 Games, with the rugby sevens tournament featuring 12 teams.
This is the sixth appearance of rugby sevens at the Asian Games and eighth in total for rugby, since union was first played at the 1998 games in Bangkok. Sevens was also played in 1998 and has been played exclusively since 2006.
South Korea won the first two sevens titles but Japan are three-time defending champions, with Hong Kong defeated in the final four years ago in Incheon.
Matches were scheduled to be played at the Wibawa Mukti Stadium in Bekasi but have been moved to the Gelora Bung Karno Sports Complex between Gelora and Senayan.
Perelini’s charges have been drawn in Pool C alongside South Korea and Sri Lanka, as well as minnows Afghanistan.
They kick off their campaign in the three-day tournament on Thursday, August 30, opening up against the Sri Lankans, before taking on Afghanistan in their second pool game.
They will play Korea on Friday before the knockout phase commences, with the tournament concluding on Saturday.
Perelini’s squad includes three players from the UAE Rugby Federation’s Player Pathway Programme and seven from the Shaheen side, with one player each from Abu Dhabi Harlequins and Dubai Exiles.
2018 ASIAN GAMES RUGBY
Pool A Pool B Pool C
Hong Kong Japan Korea
China Malaysia Sri Lanka
Thailand Chinese Taipei UAE
Pakistan Indonesia Afghanistan
Thursday, August 30
Sri Lanka v UAE (11:56 KO, UAE time)
UAE v Afghanistan (15:36 UAE)
Friday, August 31
Korea v UAE (12:18 UAE)
Yousuf Lashkari, Ahmad Al Shehi, Walid Al Balooshi, Ahmed Al Areefi, Saeed Saad, Hassan Al Noobi, Majid Al Balooshi, Abdalla Salmin, Mohammed Al Numaimi, Ali Al Sereidi, Mohammed Al Shamsi, Rashed Al Marzooqi
The new Gulf rugby season begins in earnest this weekend with the return of the Asia Rugby Western Clubs Champions League.
The competition, which has become the traditional curtain-raiser to the rugby season in the UAE and Gulf as a whole, kicks off in Sri Lanka as Kandy host West Asia Cup winners Bahrain on Friday.
It means that the same three teams as last year are taking part, with Mike McFarlane’s Quins looking to defend their crown and lift it for the third season in a row.
This year, all three teams will play once at home, after Bahrain travelled to both Kandy and Abu Dhabi last year to ensure the competition went ahead.
Kandy welcome Louie Tonkin’s Bahrain – who hoisted the West Asia Cup in 2017/18 – on Friday, with Kandy heading to the UAE capital to play Quins at Zayed Sports City next Friday, September 7. The tournament concludes the following Friday, September 14, when Quins travel to Bahrain.
The competition for trophies looks to be wide open in 2018/19 after the major honours were shared between four teams last term – breaking Quins’ utter dominance of the rugby landscape in the Gulf in 2016/17.
Dragons claimed the main Premiership title, while Bahrain won the Cup. Dubai Exiles claimed the Dubai Sevens crown, while the UAE Premiership was also theirs.
Dubai Hurricanes won the West Asia Trophy and Quins lifted the inaugural UAE Premiership Cup and kept the Champions League title.
The 35-year-old sustained a serious anterior cruciate ligament injury during the pre-season defeat in Connacht and is expected to be sidelined for up to nine months.
“Jimmy Gopperth has undergone an ACL reconstruction following an injury sustained in Connacht. Estimated absence – six to nine months,” said Wasps in an injury update.
New Zealand-born Gopperth’s setback has left Wasps short of fly-halves as Danny Cipriani moved on to Gloucester earlier this summer.
Former All Blacks and Highlanders fly-half Lima Sopoaga has joined the London club for the 2018/19 season, but does not arrive until next week.
He has scored 1,290 points in six Premiership seasons with Newcastle and Wasps...— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) August 27, 2018
But Jimmy Gopperth now faces up to nine months out after ACL surgery.
Wishing you a speedy recovery, Jimmy! pic.twitter.com/CFt5jEdIqp
Billy Searle, 22, who arrived from Bristol in May, started in the number 10 role in Saturday’s friendly win against Ulster.
Wasps director of Rugby David Young confirmed the club will also be without prop Jake Cooper-Woolley and hooker TJ Harris for up to two months after their respective bicep muscle injuries required surgery.
Wasps launch their Premiership campaign at Worcester on Saturday.