UAE to field all-Emirati side against Israel in international friendly

Two sides meet for first time in Dubai this month in fixture arranged to 'endorse peace and positive ties via sport'

UAE have not played a Test match since May 2019 when they defeated Guam, in blue, and Thailand to win the Asia Rugby Championship Division Two. Courtesy Asia Rugby
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UAE plan to field an all-Emirati side when they face Israel in a friendly international in Dubai this month.

The two sides will meet for the first time on Friday March 19, at Dubai Sports City.

The fixture has been arranged to “endorse peace and positive ties via sport”, according to the UAE Rugby Federation.

“It will be an all-Emirati team against an all-Israeli team,” said Mohammed Sultan Al Zaabi, a UAERF board member.

“[Arrangements for the fixture began] directly after the agreement for peace between the two governments.

“Thanks to Qais [Al Dhalai, the Asia Rugby president] we have been able to organise this historical match.”

It is not an official Test match, but will be the first time international rugby involving UAE has played since their 2019 Asia Rugby Championship campaign.

The 2020 Test match programme was cancelled across Asia after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

The national team, which has traditionally been largely made up of expatriate players, are ranked 61st in the World Rugby rankings, with Israel one place ahead.

Domestic rugby players have only recently returned to playing, and that in a modified format of the game which minimises contact.

The two sides who contest the fixture later this month will likely be largely developmental teams.

All Emirati male and female teams competed in the Arab Sevens in Egypt last month, with the men’s side finishing third.

The Shaheen development side also excelled upon the restart of domestic competition, winning their first match in the new friendly league against Dubai Tigers.

According to Al Dhalai, the head of rugby in Asia, the fixture forms part of the “strategic vision for developing cooperation between the two federations”.