Proud Dubliner Tyson Byrne has admitted winning his first UAE international cap will mean as much to him as if Joe Schmidt was to offer him a game for his beloved Ireland.
– UAE rugby player profile: Tyson Byrne (Arabian Knights)
The Arabian Knights’ prop is in the final 25-man UAE squad that travels to Kuala Lumpur on Friday to take on Malaysia, Thailand and Chinese Taipei in Division II of the restructured Asia Rugby Championship. However, the 24-year-old, who has lived in the UAE for eight years, says he won’t believe his “dream” is real until he actually pulls on the jersey emblazoned with the falcon.
“Last year, I was in the training squad but didn’t get picked. This year I’ve made it but until I pull on that jersey, I don’t think it will feel real,” said Byrne. “I can’t wait to get on the plane, that’s when it will start to feel real. I will be over the moon to play for the UAE and my family back home are going mad.”
Byrne moved to the Middle East as a 16-year-old with his mother and brother, but they moved back home to the Emerald Isle four years ago.
Byrne, like many of his teammates, believed attitudes about playing for the UAE have changed in recent years.
“People didn’t treat it with the respect playing for the UAE deserved, but there’s more prestige to it now,” he said.
“The boys that have been picked really want to be there and make the most of it.”
Coach Roelof Kotze insisted his team are ready and said it’s now just a case of putting it together on the field on Sunday – their first game, against Thailand.
“The mood is very positive and all the boys are looking forward to getting out there and playing,” he said. “I’m expecting a high tempo game on Sunday.”
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