UAE to return to Asia Rugby Championship as Apollo Perelini picks strong training squad
Niko Volavola (l) is part of the UAE squad for Thailand.
UAE national team coach Apollo Perelini has selected arguably the strongest UAE side in recent memory as his side return to the Asia Rugby Championship next month.
Perelini and Co will surely hope to make up for lost time when they take on Guam in Thailand on May 15, as the UAE look to plot a path back into the ARC’s Division I after they withdrew from the competition a year ago.
The UAE Rugby Federation – for still unconfirmed reasons – withdrew the 15s team from the 2018 ARC, leaving the nation to play a glorified friendly against lowly Gibraltar.
During their 2017 Division I campaign in Malaysia, the UAE finished bottom of the table in Ipoh after defeats to the host nation, as well as the Philippines and Sri Lanka.
The UAE were spared relegation though and players and coaches had been looking forward to putting in an improved showing last year, only to be told of the news the UAE RF would not be sending a team to the tournament – which was instead played between two teams, the Philippines and Singapore, as a two-legged tie.
Those two sides will now compete in Division I, alongside Sri Lanka and Chinese Taipei, who were crowned Division II champions. The UAE will be heavily fancied to beat minnows Guam at the Bang Bon Sport Center in Bangkok, with the winners set to take on either Thailand or Kazakhstan in the final on May 18.
Apollo Perelini has named a strong UAE squad.
Instead of competing in the ARC, the UAE instead played Gibraltar in an unofficial Test match last April, winning 28-15.
Perelini has announced a 27-man training squad for the tournament which is likely to be whittled down ahead of the nation’s departure for Thailand on May 12. Training sessions will take place over the coming weeks.
Emosi Ratuvecanaua, Luke Stevenson, Kini Natuna (all Abu Dhabi Harlequins); Andrew Powell, Sakiusa Naisau (both Dubai Hurricanes), Niko Volavola, Matthew Richards (both Jebel Ali Dragons); Thinus Steyn, Edward Armitage (both Dubai Exiles), Sean Carey (Dubai Eagles); Majid Al Balooshi, Mohamed Suleiman (both Dubai Shaheen)
Chris Jones-Griffiths, Craig Nutt, Murray Reason, Esekaia Dranibota, Sean Stevens (all Abu Dhabi Harlequins); Lucas Waddington, Gio Fourie, Matt Mills, Jaen Botes, Stephen Ferguson (all Dubai Exiles); Daniel Perry (Jebel Ali Dragons); Isaac Porter, Mohamed Hassan (both Dubai Eagles); Hamish Anderson (Dubai Hurricanes); Ahmed Moosa (Dubai Shaheen)