Lewsey eyes ‘one last hurrah’ with UAE in Malaysia

Scrum-half wants swan­song be­fore re­turn­ing to UK

The National - News - Sport - - LEADING OFF - pradley@then­ational.ae Paul Radley

DUBAI // Ed Lewsey hopes to prove he war­rants se­lec­tion for a tour that would be his swan­song for both the UAE and rugby as a whole when the na­tional team face the Premier­ship Bar­bar­ians in Shar­jah tonight. The Abu Dhabi Har­lequins vet­eran is part of the squad for the UAE’s fi­nal warm-up fix­ture ahead of next month’s Asian Rugby Cham­pi­onship Divi­sion 1 in Malaysia.

Apollo Pere­lini, the coach, will fi­nalise his side for the trip to Ipoh fol­low­ing the match against a side made up of the best of the rest of play­ers from the do­mes­tic top flight.

Lewsey, 38, is hope­ful of fig­ur­ing in Pere­lini’s plans when he whit­tles down his 32-man squad to the fi­nal 27 names for the flight to Malaysia.

It will be the last in­volve­ment for a player who has been highly in­flu­en­tial within UAE rugby in the six years since he first moved to Abu Dhabi to teach at Bri­tish School Al Khubairat.

He will re­turn to the UK this sum­mer for work, and he plans to call time on his play­ing ca­reer.

“I think it is time to pur­sue a more sus­tain­able pas­time,” said Lewsey, whose play­ing ca­reer in the UK in­cluded stints at Wasps and Ex­eter Chiefs.

“I have been play­ing rugby for 32 years and it has been a big part of my life, but I am def­i­nitely me­an­der­ing to­wards so­cial rugby now. I am very keen to make the tour, have one last hurrah, and do my very best for the UAE team.”

The scrum-half has a played a sig­nif­i­cant part in the na­tional team’s resur­gence since he de­buted, co­in­ci­den­tally also in Malaysia, two years ago.

Un­til that point, UAE rugby was at a low ebb, but it has now reached the point where the team are tar­get­ing a re­turn to the top flight of Asian rugby for the first time since 2012.

Kris Greene, the Jebel Ali Drag- ons scrum-half, wore the No 9 shirt for the UAE’s first warm-up game, a nar­row win against the Con­fer­ence Bar­bar­ians last Fri­day, but Lewsey still had op­por­tu­nity to im­press.

In­juries meant he was fit­ted in at cen­tre in a re­jigged back­line, a po­si­tion he played for much of his ca­reer be­fore ar­riv­ing in the UAE, and his sec­ond-half try prompted the come­back against the Con­fer­ence side.

Given they will be play­ing three Test matches in seven days in Malaysia – against the hosts, Sri Lanka and Philip­pines – hav­ing ver­sa­til­ity within the play­ing squad is likely to be vi­tal.

“One of our cen­tres was con­cussed early on, and suf­fered a bro­ken nose,” Lewsey said.

“The plan had been to play at 9 at some stage in the game, but that changed and I en­joyed it.

“I hadn’t played there for a long time, but rugby doesn’t change all that much. I know what to do, it is just a case of whether the body lets me.

“We know from the last time we went that it re­ally stretches the play­ing re­sources, to play three games in a short space of time, so ver­sa­til­ity is im­por­tant.

“You have to spe­cialise, but to have a knowl­edge of rugby in dif­fer­ence po­si­tions is use­ful for the team. I am happy, if se­lected, to play any­where if it ben­e­fits the team.”

Victor Besa for The Na­tional

Scrum-half Ed Lewsey, with the ball against Con­fer­ence Bar­bar­ians last week, has spent six years in the UAE.

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