Emiratis ‘getting better and better’ with UAE Shaheen programme, says Apollo Perelini

'This is just the beginning for Arab rugby in regard to Emiratis playing the full 15-a-side game' Apollo Perelini tells Paul Radley on the conclusion of the UAE Community League season.

A UAE Shaheen player dives for the tryline against Dubai Sharks XV on Friday in a UAE Community League match. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National / April 1, 2016
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DUBAI // Apollo Perelini, the UAE coach, believes rugby is beginning to thrive among the indigenous community after the all-Emirati Shaheen side finished a promising first season of 15-a-side rugby.

They ended their maiden UAE Community League season with a 24-12 loss to Dubai Sharks’ second string on Pitch 1 at The Sevens.

The new competition had been set up with the intention of giving Emirati players a first taste of XVs rugby, at the suggestion of Perelini and Roelof Kotze, the former UAE coach.

“Twelve months ago, when Roelof and I were talking about this idea of having an all-Emirati XVs side, we did have doubts,” Perelini said.

“We worried whether we would get enough numbers, if they would be committed, but we have done a whole season with three wins and 23 players in the squad on the last day.

“The boys have been getting better and better and this is just the beginning for Arab rugby in regard to Emiratis playing the full 15-a-side game.”

According to Mohammed Shaker, the UAE Rugby Federation board member, five of the Shaheen players will be moving on to other established clubs to test themselves further up the divisions next season.

A group of Emiratis have already played regular top-flight rugby for Abu Dhabi Saracens this season, and Perelini says more will be capable of doing the same in the future.

“Of course there are players who are capable of moving up the levels,” Perelini said.

“Half of my team are first time players and for them to be in this position, I am really proud of them.

“We want to build on this. This is just the beginning of a legacy for them, they are the main core of players we are going to build on.

“The more these guys promote the game within their own community, it is only going to grow the game.”


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