UAE rugby lose players to national service for Kuala Lumpur Sevens

Absentees Majid Al Balooshi, Younes Al Balooshi and Abdul Al Hajri are highly regarded by coach Roelof Kotze.

Roelof Kotze, second left, coaches the UAE national rugby team. Sarah Dea / The National
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DUBAI // The UAE will travel to this weekend’s Kuala Lumpur Sevens with a depleted squad as a number of their best-regarded players are enrolled in national service.

The national team have already found the going tough in this season’s Asian Sevens Series, having finished last in the opening leg in Hong Kong last month.

Now they will are unable to call on a number of emerging players for the second leg in Malaysia.

The teenagers Majid Al Balooshi, Younes Al Balooshi and Abdul Al Hajri are regarded by Roelof Kotze, the coach, as “crucial to where we want to go”.

However, each will be missing this weekend as they start their military training.

“We have lost players out of our system, players who have worked hard over the past two years, as they have to do national service,” Kotze said.

“There are a few guys who will be missing, possibly for a few months, although hopefully not completely, as they will be undertaking their basic training.”

This weekend’s tournament in Malaysia is relatively low-key. However, it will provide the side with more match time together as they prepare for Olympic pre-qualifying tournaments later this year.

The national team need to advance from tournaments in Al Ain and India later this season if they are to join next year’s Asian Sevens Series, and thus maintain their hopes of playing at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

“Maybe it will be good for us as a fitness exercise,” Mohammed Shaker, the national team manager, said of the players who will be absent due to national service.

“Hong Kong was a tough tournament for a lot of reasons. Coach Roelof is now trying to solve the mistakes, and at the end of the day it is a learning curve for us.”

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