UAE to bring expats back to sevens fold

Matt Jones - Editor 17:16 28/07/2015
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The UAE also have a Shaheen side for Emirati players.

UAE national team head coach Roelof Kotze will reintroduce expatriate players to the national sevens squad this season.

Sevens will debut as an event at the Olympic Games in Rio next year but the UAE missed out on a place after failing to come through the qualifying tournament in Chennai in March.

Finishing fourth out of five teams there also meant they failed to automatically qualify for the 2015 ARFU Sevens Series and Kotze says his decision to bring back expat players is designed to boost the UAE team and help them become a regular fixture on the regional circuit.

The South African is using the template from the 15 man format, where a mixture of expat and Emirati players form the team.

The XVs side beat Thailand and Chinese Taipei in an encouraging tour of Malaysia in May, narrowly losing out on promotion from Division II of the revamped Asia Rugby Championship.

“After the Rio Olympics qualification process we decided to bring back expats into the international sevens fold,” said Kotze.

“We looked closely at it and we were influenced by how the 15-a-side team did with a mix of Emiratis and expats at the Asia Rugby Championship.

“Hopefully it will help us to get some wins under our belt. I think, with the experience the expats have, they can guide us on the field and help the Emirati players grasp the skills needed.

“As a player I was coached as much by the older players as I was by the coaches and we believe it will make a difference.

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“In Chennai our path to Rio came to an end and with Rio, players were required to be UAE passport holders. We made progress last year but I think this move will give us confidence to do well going forward.”

The UAE finished bottom of the Asian Sevens Series in 2014, finishing last at all three tournaments in Hong Kong, Malaysia and China.

Meanwhile, the UAE 15-man team beat Chinese Taipei and Thailand at the Asia Rugby Championship two months ago and only lost to Malaysia by a point, so Kotze sees no reason why they can’t compete with those nations on the sevens circuit.

His aim is to be one of the 11 core sides in Asia, alongside Japan, South Korea, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Chinese Taipei and Uzbekistan.

Currently, the UAE are regularly invited to sevens tournaments around the world but Kotze wants to put his men in a position in the future where they are good enough to qualify outright.

“We don’t want to rely on invites, we want to be good enough, we want to be there by right and I think, by selecting expats, that will strengthen our chances,” he explained.

“We want to become very competitive on the Asian circuit and stay on the Asian circuit, we don’t want to be invited to tournaments every year.

“At the moment we’re in a position where the first six or seven Emirati players are good enough to be there but the guys on the bench struggle because they couldn’t train properly due to work commitments or have national service.

“With four or five expats to fill the gaps, it will help our guys. We need to put players in a position to be able to give their best possible.

“The Shaheen programme is developing Emiratis and we want to develop guys to be able to perform at the national level. Picking expat players helps us stay at that level and helps fast-track the development of Emiratis.”

Of the three Asian Sevens Series events this year, the UAE has been invited to two, the Shanghai Sevens in China between September 5-6, and the Colombo Sevens in Sri Lanka between October 10-11.

The Bangkok Sevens in Thailand will be played in-between but the UAE will not make an appearance.

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