Van Rooyen’s primary task will be to oversee the implementation of World Rugby’s Get into Rugby (GiR) programme among Asia Rugby union members, working closely with these unions to ensure their GiR action plans are in place and conform to World Rugby guidelines.
He will also oversee the integration of World Rugby’s ‘Impact Beyond’ programme which focuses on activating rugby-influenced activities in the lead-up to the 2019 Rugby World Cup, to be hosted in Japan.
A highly successful programme across the globe, World Rugby’s Get into Rugby has been embraced by the UAERF since ithe federation’s inception (in 2011) and found the programme to be a valuable tool to grow the game in local communities that required established structures and pathways to grow the game.
Speaking about his new role, Van Rooyen said: “It is indeed an honour to serve the greater Asia Rugby community through this role. I see a bright future for rugby in Asia and I am looking forward to working with the various unions (around Asia) to realise the dream of ‘introducing rugby to one million new players across the continent’.
“Our successes at UAERF have prepared me for this opportunity, and I can only express my deepest appreciation for the visionary leadership and support I have received from the Board and all the members of the UAERF team.”
Asia Rugby Honorary Secretary General and UAE Rugby Secretary General, Qais Al Dhalai commented: “We are very proud Ben has been recognised for his impact on growing the game at local grass roots level, and subsequently selected by Asia Rugby to take on this important role of introducing the game across Asia.
“All at the UAERF wish to thank Ben for his untiring, successful efforts in delivering the GiR programme and his commitment to our Player Pathway Programme. We wish Ben the very best and will be watching the progress of Get into Rugby across Asia with great interest.”
The game is the UAE’s only friendly before flying out to Uzbekistan for the Asia Rugby Championship (ARC) next month.
UAE rugby’s performance manager Perelini has been putting a selection of players through their paces over the course of the last few weeks, but will pick his 25-man Test squad following the game.
The clash will be played at Dubai Sports City against opponents coached by Dubai Exiles director of rugby, Jacques Benade.
Perelini admitted he has a firm idea about the majority of his starting XV but claims the game is an opportunity for players to stake a claim for a tour spot.
“A lot of players have been putting their hands up at training, definitely,” said Perelini.
“Training is very, very different to a game though, so we’ll see how they fare on Wednesday.
“The majority I have already watched and I have a fair idea of what they can do. Those players I’ve seen enough over the season. There are still some players I’m not sure of, and have trained well.
“I’ve pretty much got my 15. It’s now about choosing the back-ups.”
The former dual-code Samoa international is likely to finalise his squad over the weekend for a trip from which the UAE will aim to go one step further than 12 months ago and gain promotion from ARC Division II. Standing in their way are three new opponents in Singapore, Guam and hosts Uzbekistan.
Despite his confidence about his starting team, Perelini insists there is a still lot to play for Wednesday.
“It’s a big opportunity to make a statement,” said the 46-year-old.
“Everyone has an opportunity and I want to give everybody ample opportunity.
“Those guys probably on the fringes will probably get more game time than guys I’ve already penciled in as certainties, so that I’m able to see how they respond to a game situation.”
Around 800 rugby-mad youngsters plus their families swarmed on the UAE capital last week to celebrate Abu Dhabi Harlequins’ mini and youth section’s awards day.
The size of the club’s thriving youth section was perhaps emphasised by the fact the event was held over a mammoth seven hours, with age groups from Under-7 to U-19 all being rewarded for their efforts throughout the season.
The event was held at the Novotel Hotel, with trophies presented by Quins’ senior players.
Alex Bailey, mini and youth manager, said: “For me the awards were a great success. Whilst individuals were recognised with awards the whole day was a message of unity as age groups, teams and most of all as a club.
“From start to finish the coaches’ speeches echoed words such as values, respect, teamwork, pride and fun. It was a delight to see all of the messages we have been trying to convey to these kids all year being delivered and received as second nature.
“My personal thanks go out to all of the players, parents, volunteers and sponsors and senior players who have offered their support throughout the season. Without any one of these people what we do would not be possible.
“Our best wishes go out to the families that will be leaving the UAE this summer, and I look forward to seeing those who will remain in September when the new season will start.”
Many of the club’s senior players also coach at various youth levels throughout the Zayed Sports City-based club, and head coach Mike McFarlane said his charges were happy to share in the youngsters’ success.
“A fantastic day where there was a constant buzz of pride from children and parents alike,” said McFarlane, who has just completed his debut season in charge of Quins.
“For the seniors to witness this first hand was very rewarding with many having been involved in coaching and the junior tournaments. The juniors were inspired receiving their awards from the seniors and that is exactly what we wanted to achieve with the ‘one club’ ethos.
“A personal highlight was to see Luke Stevenson, our captain and fly-half, found by a junior and his father to ask for kicking guidance. Luke offered his time and they left the conversation saying ‘he wants to be as good as you’.