All-Emirati team ready for Sevens with eye on the future
It’s been a slow process but the UAE Rugby Federation’s pursuit of its player pathway programme aimed at developing Emiratis to one day exclusively make up the national teams is definitely moving in the right direction.
by Matt Jones
1st December 2016
Making great strides: Adel Al Hendi.
Following an ambitious and ultimately failed bid to reach the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, the UAE reintroduced expatriates to its sevens and 15s teams under former performance manager Roelof Kotze.
Apollo Perelini has continued that trend, while blending in Emirati players, and its worked well with the UAE making strides in both formats of the game.
Perelini has entered an all-Emirati squad into the Dubai Rugby Sevens starting on Thursday and the former dual code star has a clear plan which he claims is only just beginning.
“I am preparing a group of players specifically for sevens development as I look towards the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia,” he said. “The Elite Player Programme will identify future players from under-18’s onwards. It’s just a start.”
Perelini has picked a 12-man squad for the International Men’s Open, kicking off against Middle Eastern Cougars Y on Thursday.
One man selected is Abu Dhabi Saracens winger Adel Al Hendi, who has long been a part of the UAE sevens setups at all levels. He believes the UAE RF’s plans are also progressing.
“I’m happy to be a part of the squad and our aim is to take the division,” said a confident Al Hendi, who believes the future is bright after the UAE Shaheen sides – made up of many players in the UAE squad in Dubai – reached the Plate and Plate Social finals at the Eden Park 7s last month.
“The boys played some good sevens at Eden Park and it bodes well for us this weekend and for Emirati rugby. Up and coming talented players need to be involved in these types of tournaments. The development programmes have set the platform to bring more players into the mix, and with a tidy pool of players, UAE rugby is only going up.”