Lewsey eyes ‘one last hurrah’ with UAE in Malaysia
Scrum-half wants swansong before returning to UK
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.”
Scrum-half Ed Lewsey, with the ball against Conference Barbarians last week, has spent six years in the UAE.