The country is basking in the glory of a dominant Asia Rugby Championship campaign which yielded promotion to Division I – yet the UAE’s players are already plotting their next move.
Colossal wins of 65-13 against hosts Uzbekistan and 70-18 against Thailand in Tashkent saw Apollo Perelini’s men consign last year’s ARC disappointment to the history books as the UAE returned to the second tier of Asian rugby fir the first time in two years.
The players can be rightly proud of their achievements under the guidance of former Samoa dual code star Perelini, but they are determined not to sit still and claim there is better to come for their adopted nation.
“It’s a step at a time for me,” said the UAE’s South African Number 8, Jaen Botes.
“We came a long way since last year and we just need to keep building and going forward. We still have a lot to achieve, we still have a lot of potential as a squad and federation.
“I’m sure this will give everyone that extra bit of drive to go forward and I look forward to the hard work and to competing in the division we should’ve been in last year. It’s full steam ahead.”
By the time the UAE kick off their 2017 ARC campaign in around 12 months, they will have come full circle.
They will replace Singapore in Division I, the team who relegated them in April 2014 following a 30-13 victory at The Sevens.
There they will play Sri Lanka, the Philippines and champions Malaysia who elected not to participate in the promotion-relegation play-off between Division I and the top echelon of Asian rugby – the Tri Nations – occupied by Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea.
Given that the UAE only lost out on promotion to Division I last year following a 20-19 defeat to Malaysia, the UAE should feel confident ahead of next year.
“It was interesting to see what happened in Division I where Malaysia won. This will give us some confidence,” said Botes’ compatriot, Ryno Fourie.
“The focus now will of course be to win Division I and we will take game by game. We have a good group of players and hopefully we can all stay together.”
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