[April 28, 2011]: United Arab Emirates will hope that home conditions will help them to get their HSBC Asian Five Nations Top Five campaign on the winning track when they take on Kazakhstan at Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi on Saturday. It is the first time that the HSBC Asian 5 Nations has been played in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE.
Mike Cox-Hill and his men left Colombo last week with relief etched all over their faces having escaped with a 13-13 draw to Sri Lanka. They will now look at taking a giant step forward in their bid to stay in the elite competition next season by defeating Kazakhstan.
“Given the conditions we faced in Colombo, it was not a bad result to come away with. I guess Sri Lanka must be feeling disappointed that we got away with a draw, but the conditions were a great leveller. Now we must look forward and try to seal our place in this competition by defeating Kazakhstan,” said UAE skipper Cox-Hill.
Heavy rain turned the opening encounter in Colombo last Saturday into a mud bath. The bigger UAE pack were tackled to a standstill by Sri Lanka who had a try in the dying seconds of the match disallowed. They also missed two easy penalties as UAE clung on to a draw.
“That result has underlined the fact that in international rugby, one has to take every opportunity that presents itself,” said second-rower Cox-Hill. “It proved that we need to play a full 80 minutes, especially the last five minutes which are crucial in an international.”
UAE will make two changes to the starting line-up with specialist tighthead prop Munib Haddad, who didn’t travel to Colombo, coming in for Dan Boatwright who will move to the bench and David Clouston starting ahead of Stuart Quinn at scrumhalf. In the reserves, back Cyrus Houmayoun comes in to replace prop Mohanned Shaker.
“We have only one a couple of changes,” said Cox-Hill. “We realise the importance of continuity and there is a positive mood in the camp.”
Kazakhstan will make two enforced changes to the team which lost 23-10 to Hong Kong in Almaty as blindside flanker Ilya Poplaskiy and hooker Mikhail Solovyev picked up red cards for foul play.
Skipper and No.8 Timur Mashurov will be looking for a much-improved performance from his players, and has urged a fast start. Kazakhstan trailed 20-3 to Hong Kong at halftime and although lock-forward Yevgeniy Shekurov scored a try late in the second-half, the comeback was left too late.
Kazakhstan know a second successive defeat could spell the end to their ambitions of finishing Asian runners-up for the second successive year.
“This game is the most important match for us in the A5N,” said Mashurov.
“If we lose in Abu Dhabi we could be relegated. But the atmosphere is good in the squad. We know that if we play the same way we played in the second half against Hong Kong, when even with only 12 players we were attacking; if all 15 of us play with that same spirit from the first minute, the result will take care of itself.”
Last year Kazakhstan defeated the Arabian Gulf - now disbanded and replaced by UAE - 43-28.
"They were leading 33-28 with three minutes to go before piling on ten points,” Cox-Hill recalled. “Like I said, the last few minutes of an international are the most crucial and we have to be at the top of our game at this stage.”
"The importance of beating Kazakhstan cannot be understated. The good thing this week is that we are back on familiar ground. We know the pitch, we know the conditions and with the help of our home fans, hopefully we will be able to get a win,” Cox-Hill added.
This weekend’s other HSBC A5N 2011 Top 5 match is Hong Kong versus Japan on Saturday, April 30, at Hong Kong Football Club (kick-off 1600).
1) Chris Jones Griffiths 2) Dan Heal 3) Munib Haddad 4) Simon Osbourne 5) Mike Cox-Hill © 6) Renier Els 7) Carl Van Rosenveldt 8) Scott Kerr 9) David Clouston 10) Jonothan Grady 11) Steve Smith 12) Duncan Murray 13) John Beeton 14) Sean Hurley 15) Tim Fletcher 16) David Vittes 17) Dan Boatwright 18) Lloyd Budd 19) Andrew Millar 20) Stuart Quinn 21) Cyrus Homayoun 22) Ali Mohammed
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