by Matt Jones
Feeling determined: Adel Al Hendi.
The buzz is reverberating all the way from Sri Lanka as the UAE sevens squad stands on the brink of something very special.
More than 3,000 kilometres away in Colombo, Roelof Kotze’s men are hunting a top-eight finish in the third and final leg of the Asia Rugby Sevens Series this weekend.
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With that they would cement their place among the best eight teams in Asian sevens rugby and secure automatic qualification for the 2016 competition.
There is an increasing wave of optimism coursing through a squad whose confidence has been boosted by ninth and sixth-placed finishes in legs one and two, respectively.
“It’s a huge weekend for UAE rugby, it really feels like we’re on the verge of doing something special,” said UAE captain Niall Statham.
“We’re not a surprise package now so other teams are ready for us but I have real belief in the boys, we have the potential to better our finish in Bangkok.
“That being said we are taking nothing for granted, some good teams are really fighting for survival so we won’t change the way we approach or prepare for it.”
The UAE play Japan and Chinese Taipei in Pool A today, knowing that one win should be enough to put them into the Cup quarter-finals tomorrow, which will guarantee them a place in the core eight of countries for next year’s series.
Victory against the number one ranked Japan might well be a big ask – the UAE lost 39-0 to the men from the land of the Rising Sun in the last eight in Thailand two weeks ago – so beating Chinese Taipei is a necessity.
“It’s a massive weekend of rugby, this is everything we’ve built up for,” said Abu Dhabi Harlequins’ winger Adel Al Hendi. “I think this is the strongest squad we’ve put out, not many changes from the last squad. We can’t let anything stop us from getting into the top eight, that’s the goal and maybe we can aim even higher. I don’t want to talk too much, I honestly just can’t wait to get there and get the job done.”