DUBAI // The UAE aim to be regarded as the best amateur side in Asia, according to Bruce Birtwistle, their coach.
The collection of surveyors, aircraft engineers and salesmen who make up the national team face the toughest task of their campaign this evening when they go up against a fully-professional Japan side.
Japan have never been beaten in three and a half years of Asian Five Nations rugby, meaning the rest have essentially been vying for second place.
This season, that will probably be decided by next weekend’s “Battle of the Expat Brats,” as the UAE captain Mike Cox-Hill terms it, when they travel to Hong Kong.
In the meantime, the UAE are taking encouragement by the fact Hong Kong were only beaten 45-22 when they hosted Japan this term, ahead of tonight’s game.
“We want to be recognised as the best amateur team in Asia, and the second best team in Asia, those are our goals,” Birtwistle said. “We were heartened by Hong Kong’s result against Japan. Hong Kong played a particularly good game, and will be happy to see they are closing the gap. We are aiming to do exactly the same.”
In a bid to keep pace with the Japanese loose-forwards, Birtwistle has picked three flankers in his back row to increasing the pack’s mobility around the field.
Jamie Clarke, the New Zealand-born open-side flanker who captains Abu Dhabi, is available to make his debut.
He has been brought into the back row in place of Scott Kerr, the Exiles No 8, whose club-mate, Carl Von Rosenveldt, has switched from the open-side to the back of the scrum. Renier Els, the South African wildlife supervisor who was named Abu Dhabi’s player of the year last week, remains on the blind-side flank.
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