Tunisia v Arabian Gulf in Tunis (Test Friendly)
Both these teams are preparing for important rugby matches. Tunisia will play either Romania/Ukraine/Lithuania for a chance to qualify for the 2011 Rugby World Cup through the repecharge door. The Arabian Gulf will play in the Asia 5 Nations competition, the Elite level of rugby in Asia. The Asia 5 Nations will produce a winner directly to the Rugby World Cup Finals, and a No.2 team that will qualify for a repecharge round against Uruguay later in the year.
Very little information can be gathered about the Tunisians. I'd expect the side to contain a number of players from France-based clubs.
The Arabian Gulf team is in a difficult situation. Firstly, the team will soon, as far as I'm aware, disperse as the IRB is working towards forming the parts of what has been the Gulf side for many years into separate rugby unions with their own national identity. This year looks like being the last for this Middle East rugby union unless it can win its way into the Rugby World Cup finals. The only possibility is to gain the 2nd spot as Japan look hot favourites to take the No.1 place. But life will be even more difficult for the AG team as no fewer than eleven players are new to international rugby. Tough times ahead indeed.
This match will give the rugby world some idea of the strength of these teams.
These two teams have met once before. Tunisia won 12-11 in Bahrain back in 1997. Tunisia played two games against Hong Kong in 2008. They lost 12-25 in Hong Kong, but won 29-9 in the return match in Tunis a week later. In 2008 Arabian Gulf played their first season in the elite level of Asian rugby and lost 12-20 to Hong Kong in Al Ain. This match is to be played in Tunis where I feel the Gulf side will find the local side just too rich.
GWC Rugby Rankings
Neither side is in the world table as neither has played a cross continental test match in the last year. At present Tunisia holds 3rd place on the African table, whilst the Arabian Gulf holds 6th place on the Asia table.
Prediction: I expect the Tunisians to have too much grunt up front and speed in the backs for the visitors. Tunisia by 40 points.
15 James Love (Hartpury College, England)
14 Ross Stapleton (Bahrain RFC)
13 Trent Eastgate (Dubai Dragons)
12 Taif Al Delamie (Lansdowne FC, Ireland)
11 Rama Chand (TOA Dubai)
10 Duncan Murray (Dubai Hurricanes)
9 Jonathan MacDonald (Cardiff University, Wales)
8 David Clark (Dubai Exiles)
7 Edward LePine-Williams (Dubai Dragons)
6 Karl Sutcliffe (Bahrain RFC)
5 Steven Little (Dubai Dragons)
4 Michael Cox-Hill, Capt. (Dubai Exiles)
3 Nicholas Croker (Doha RFC)
2 Daniel Heal (Dubai Dragons)
1 Michael Riley (Dubai Exiles)
16 Rory Power (Bahrain RFC)
17 Craig Jones (Dubai Exiles)
18 Jason Voyce (Muscat RFC)
19 Byron Kraemer (Dubai Dragons)
20 David Clouston (Dubai Hurricanes)
21 Sean Hurley (Dubai Dragons)
22 Paul Beard (Dubai Exiles)
Head Coach: Bruce Birtwistle
11 new caps!
Last minute changes (thanks to 'quentin' at http://www.fira-aer-rugby.com/forum2007/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=3417)
"There are two last minute changed from the original 22 man squad named, Stuart Quinn ( Dubai Exiles ) will replace Ross Stapleton and Steve Smith ( Dubai Hurricanes )travel instead of Rama Chand due to last minute injuries. Both replacements are uncapped."
Tunisian team details not available.