Sean Carey puts it simply when it comes to the UAE’s ambitions at this year’s Asia Rugby Sevens Trophy – it’s a “must-win” tournament.
Apollo Perelini takes his charges to Singapore this weekend for the Trophy, as the country look to climb their way back into the top tier of the continent’s sevens rugby scene.
It’s an arena they have not featured in since 2015, having been left to fend for themselves in the backwaters of Asia’s rugby wilderness – along with the likes of Nepal and Bangladesh.
In 2016 in Chennai they fell to Thailand in the semi-finals. Last year they fell at the same stage, to the same opponents. The Thais will likely once again be the main danger to the UAE this weekend, with Perelini’s men determined to be crowned kings at the Queenstown Stadium.
“There’s no other way to go about it, it’s a must-win tournament,” said Dubai Eagles fly-half Carey.
“Last year we were disappointed with the same competition, we lost in the semis to Thailand so we’d like to go one better this year and go all the way and win it. It’s very important I think we win this so we get into the Asia Sevens Series, it would really boost rugby in the region.
“We are looking forward to it. Another trip with the UAE, we’re getting to see a lot of nice countries with the rugby.
“But we’re very focused this time around, the training has been a lot harder this year. To win will really give us a boost, even the 15s side going to the Asia Rugby Championship next year.
“The Malaysia trip (the UAE lost all three of their 2017 ARC Division I fixtures upon re-entering the second tier) was disappointing so it would be nice to get some silverware.”
A squad of 12 took off from Dubai on Wednesday night, with Dubai Hurricanes’ Andrew Powell, Dubai Exiles’ Jaen Botes and Abu Dhabi Harlequins’ Luke Stevenson, along with Carey, part of that side that endured that miserable trip to Malaysia last May.
The UAE have been drawn in Pool B in Singapore, alongside Jordan, Nepal and Indonesia. They play the group games on Saturday, with the knockouts to follow on Sunday.
Carey is confident the UAE can achieve success in Singapore and regain parity with the likes of Malaysia, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, China and Chinese Taipei, as well as the giants of Asia, like Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan, in the main series.
“The squad is good, we’ve got a lot of Fijian boys from (Jebel Ali) Dragons and Quins and Jaen who is a big lump,” added the Irishman.
“Kiwi (Powell) and my experience from last year and Luke captaining the side really brings a different dynamic to it. Even the Emirati guys who are coming, Walid (Al Balooshi) and Saeed (Al Maheiri), have come on a lot over the last year and they’ll have the experience of having played in it before so I think they can come in and do a job for us.
“I’m quietly confident we will go and win it but we’ll take it very seriously and focus on getting in and out and getting the job done.
“It’s going to be hot, humid and wet, a bit cooler than here, but we’ve been used to doing fitness here in the heat and pre-season is going well. Luckily I’ve been doing a bit of work before getting called up so I’m not in bad shape.”
Andrew Powell, Emosi Ratuvanacua, Hassan Al Noobi, Jaen Botes, Kinivilame Natuna, Luke Stevenson, Niko Volavola, Saeed Al Maheiri, Sean Carey, Sirilo Laladidi, Vito Tuivione, Walid Al Balooshi