Kazakhstan woes improve UAE promotion chances in Asia Rugby Championship
It may be through default, but the UAE are on the brink of promotion to Division I of the Asia Rugby Championship, following Kazakhstan’s withdrawal due to financial constraints.
by Matt Jones
10th May 2016
Hopes raised: UAE coach Apollo Perelini.
The UAE’s chances of promotion to Division I of the Asia Rugby Championship may have been enhanced following Kazakhstan’s withdrawal from this year’s series.
The Kazakhs, due to face Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Malaysia in Division I in Malaysia this week, pulled out a week before the tournament due to financial constraints. The country’s government said it was only funding sevens rugby as it is an Olympic sport, with the men’s 15s programme subsequently suspended.
As a result Kazakhstan’s women’s team have also pulled out of the Asia 3 Nations and will also miss the Women’s Rugby World Cup in Ireland next year.
Singapore, relegated from Division I last season, were due to take on Uzbekistan in Division II in Tashkent later this month, with the winner meeting either Apollo Perelini’s UAE or Guam on May 21.
They will now be re-instated to Division I, with Thailand taking their place in Division II.
The news was welcomed by Singapore, who were relegated to Division II following losses to the Philippines (20-17) and Kazakhstan (32-12). National team captain Gaspar Tan said the team is determined to make a strong return to the tournament.
“After dropping out of it last year, we were disappointed, and we intensified our training with the aim of getting back again,” said the 27-year-old.
“We have automatic promotion now, and we must aim to stay in Division I and perform better than last year. The target is to win at least two matches to remain there.”
On paper, at least, it looks like a decision that will benefit Perelini’s side, who are the second lowest ranked nation in Division II – currently 83rd in the World Rugby standings. Thailand (76th) and Guam (73rd) are both above them, with hosts Uzbekistan ranked 87th.
Division I is currently taking place in Kuala Lumpur with the tournament ending on Saturday.
The UAE fly to Tashkent the same day and will play Guam in a semi-final a week on Wednesday. Win that and they will face the winner of Uzbekistan and Thailand.