Fittingly, a summer which has seen a drastic overhaul in personnel at the top of UAE rugby culminated with a dramatic late twist before today’s Premiership kick off.
When Abu Dhabi Harlequins’ players arrive at the home of Jebel Ali Dragons this evening, they will find a few unfamiliar faces welcoming them in the away team dressing room. Two players who had been expected to fuel the revival of Dubai Hurricanes have had a last-minute change of heart.
Now Paul Beard and Phil Cronin will be wearing the red and green of Abu Dhabi rather than the yellow of Hurricanes. In the case of Beard, the Abu Dhabi-born and raised fly-half, it will be a chance to return to the club he first played for as a mini.
Whether the Qatar national team playmaker gets much game time in his preferred No 10 shirt remains to be seen, though.
He is joining a Quins side led by the leading fly-half in the Middle East, Jeremy Manning. But Beard cited the opportunity to “learn from the best” as one of his reasons for moving.
Their late decision to swap allegiances will no doubt leave the Hurricanes’ plans for the new season in a mess.
However, it could prove a tipping point in Abu Dhabi’s bid to reclaim top billing from the Dragons, their opening night opponents.
The Dragons have assembled one of the most powerful squads in the history of the domestic game here. Their rivals will need all the help they can muster.