Abu Dhabi Harlequins’ full-back Jeremy Manning, right, at 29, is among the oldest members in the team. Silvia Razgova / The National
Abu Dhabi Harlequins’ full-back Jeremy Manning, right, at 29, is among the oldest members in the team. Silvia Razgova / The National

Abu Dhabi Harlequins go the young way as growth tool



Arabian Gulf rugby used to be an old man’s game, but Abu Dhabi Harlequins have proved that situation to be outdated.

The capital’s oldest club have revived their glory days with probably the youngest team to have consistently played top flight rugby in this region.

The game here has usually been the preserve of established players who have arrived in the region from overseas to work while in their mid-20s – at least.

The leading side in the first half of the 2014/15 season, though, routinely had at least five teenagers in their first XV squad.

It was good enough to win them the two major titles to have been handed out so far – the UAE Premiership and the Dubai Sevens.

They had fallen at the final hurdle on every occasion in the previous two seasons, despite having many of the leading players in the country at their disposal.

Allied to the few old war horses who continue to excel in the front row, giving youth a chance has ended that cycle.

“It has been a long time coming,” Andy Cole, the Quins chairman, said of reversing the trend of recent near misses. “A couple of years ago the club was split between some of the old-fashioned coaches, who felt the younger players should stay with the under 18s.

“They didn’t want them blooded in the first XV, but times have moved on now. Some of these guys are bigger than the older guys anyway.

“We have been trying to push young players through as a club, because I think that is the whole point of rugby.

“If you have home-grown players to bring through that is what all sport is about.”

At age 29, the Quins player-coach Jeremy Manning has appeared like an old stager at times, with teen talent such as Iziq Foa’i, Matt Hawley and Adel Al Hendi alongside him.

There was the impression at times that Ed Lewsey, the veteran scrum-half, was retaining his place in the squad specifically so Manning did not feel too old.

“I raise the average age and Jerry is still in his prime,” Lewsey said after the Sevens win on Pitch 1 last month.

“It is good fun trying to keep up with them.”

Quins will have their triple-crown credentials examined with a challenging trip to Doha, who they beat in the Sevens final in December, in the opening weekend of the Gulf Top Six.

In the only match taking place in the UAE, Jebel Ali Dragons will look to avenge their costly defeat to Abu Dhabi Saracens at the end of last year.

They travel to Al Ghazal tomorrow to face the side who deprived them the chance to defend their Premiership title by beating them in the final regular season match.

Dubai Hurricanes, who are aiming to go one better than the runners-up finish they managed in the Premiership, travel to Bahrain.

THE SIX TEAMS

Abu Dhabi Harlequins

Qualified: UAE Premiership champions

Modest expectations last summer after losing a raft of senior players, including the club captain Billy Graham. But their young side hit back in fine fashion, winning the Premiership and Dubai Sevens with a stylish brand of attacking rugby.

Abu Dhabi Saracens

Qualified: Third in UAE Premiership

Stunned most people – not themselves – when they comprehensively outplayed the treble-defending Jebel Ali Dragons in the UAE Premiership. That clinched their place in the Top Six and also marked them out as possible dark horses for a final place.

Bahrain

Qualified: Gulf Premiership runners-up

The most successful club in the history of rugby in the region will start as outsiders for the title this time around, despite being so strong at home. They were second to Doha in their league before Christmas, but still had a negative points differential.

Doha

Qualified: Gulf Premiership champions

No wonder they pushed so hard for a change to the structure of Gulf rugby last summer. They could not have been more dominant in the four-team Gulf Premiership, with a clean sweep of six wins and a positive points difference of 329.

Dubai Hurricanes

Qualified: UAE Premiership runners-up

Hurricanes had the same lead-in to this competition last year: fine form in the UAE Premiership regular season, then comfortably downed in the final. They will not want the same result this time around, given they were off the pace in the last Gulf Top Six.

Jebel Ali Dragons

Qualified: Fourth in UAE Premiership

Hurting, physically and mentally, after failing to reach either final while trying to defend their Premiership and Sevens titles before Christmas. Their efforts were hindered by injuries to a string of senior players, including the UAE captain Adam Telford.

pradley@thenational.ae

Follow us on Twitter at SprtNationalUAE

All the Money in the World

Director: Ridley Scott

Starring: Charlie Plummer, Mark Wahlberg, Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer

Four stars

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Haltia.ai
Started: 2023
Co-founders: Arto Bendiken and Talal Thabet
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: AI
Number of employees: 41
Funding: About $1.7 million
Investors: Self, family and friends

Company profile

Company name: FinFlx

Started: January 2021

Founders: Amr Yussif (co-founder and CEO), Mattieu Capelle (co-founder and CTO)

Based in: Dubai

Industry: FinTech

Funding size: $1.5m pre-seed

Investors: Venture capital - Y Combinator, 500 Global, Dubai Future District Fund, Fox Ventures, Vector Fintech. Also a number of angel investors

How will Gen Alpha invest?

Mark Chahwan, co-founder and chief executive of robo-advisory firm Sarwa, forecasts that Generation Alpha (born between 2010 and 2024) will start investing in their teenage years and therefore benefit from compound interest.

“Technology and education should be the main drivers to make this happen, whether it’s investing in a few clicks or their schools/parents stepping up their personal finance education skills,” he adds.

Mr Chahwan says younger generations have a higher capacity to take on risk, but for some their appetite can be more cautious because they are investing for the first time. “Schools still do not teach personal finance and stock market investing, so a lot of the learning journey can feel daunting and intimidating,” he says.

He advises millennials to not always start with an aggressive portfolio even if they can afford to take risks. “We always advise to work your way up to your risk capacity, that way you experience volatility and get used to it. Given the higher risk capacity for the younger generations, stocks are a favourite,” says Mr Chahwan.

Highlighting the role technology has played in encouraging millennials and Gen Z to invest, he says: “They were often excluded, but with lower account minimums ... a customer with $1,000 [Dh3,672] in their account has their money working for them just as hard as the portfolio of a high get-worth individual.”

Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace

Developer: Big Ape Productions
Publisher: LucasArts
Consoles: PC, PlayStation
Rating: 2/5

MATCH INFO

UAE Division 1

Abu Dhabi Harlequins 12-24 Abu Dhabi Saracens

Company profile

Name: Tabby
Founded: August 2019; platform went live in February 2020
Founder/CEO: Hosam Arab, co-founder: Daniil Barkalov
Based: Dubai, UAE
Sector: Payments
Size: 40-50 employees
Stage: Series A
Investors: Arbor Ventures, Mubadala Capital, Wamda Capital, STV, Raed Ventures, Global Founders Capital, JIMCO, Global Ventures, Venture Souq, Outliers VC, MSA Capital, HOF and AB Accelerator.

Company Profile

Name: HyveGeo
Started: 2023
Founders: Abdulaziz bin Redha, Dr Samsurin Welch, Eva Morales and Dr Harjit Singh
Based: Cambridge and Dubai
Number of employees: 8
Industry: Sustainability & Environment
Funding: $200,000 plus undisclosed grant
Investors: Venture capital and government

Racecard

6pm: Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 Group 1 (PA) $55,000+(Dirt) 1,900m

6.35pm: Oud Metha Stakes Rated Conditions (TB) $60,000+(D) 1,200m

7.10pm: Jumeirah Classic Listed (TB)+$150,000 (Turf) 1,600m

7.45pm: Firebreak Stakes Group 3 (TB) $150,000 (D) 1,600m

8.20pm:+Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 Group 2 (TB) $350,000+(D) 1,900m

8.55pm: Al Bastakiya Trial Conditions (TB) $60,000+(D) 1,900m

9.30pm:+Balanchine Group 2 (TB) $180,000+(T) 1,800m

Specs: 2024 McLaren Artura Spider

Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 and electric motor
Max power: 700hp at 7,500rpm
Max torque: 720Nm at 2,250rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch auto
0-100km/h: 3.0sec
Top speed: 330kph
Price: From Dh1.14 million ($311,000)
On sale: Now

Honeymoonish

Director: Elie El Samaan

Starring: Nour Al Ghandour, Mahmoud Boushahri

Rating: 3/5

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Revibe
Started: 2022
Founders: Hamza Iraqui and Abdessamad Ben Zakour
Based: UAE
Industry: Refurbished electronics
Funds raised so far: $10m
Investors: Flat6Labs, Resonance and various others

The specs

Engine: 1.8-litre 4-cyl turbo
Power: 190hp at 5,200rpm
Torque: 320Nm from 1,800-5,000rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch auto
Fuel consumption: 6.7L/100km
Price: From Dh111,195
On sale: Now

TWISTERS

Director: Lee Isaac Chung

Starring: Glenn Powell, Daisy Edgar-Jones, Anthony Ramos

Rating: 2.5/5


Abtal

Keep up with all the Middle East and North Africa athletes at the 2024 Paris Olympics

      By signing up, I agree to The National's privacy policy
      Abtal