Dubai Sevens: Hurricanes' bid for hat-trick of Gulf titles will be a step into unknown

Coach Matthew Pewtner expects standard of competition to rise after UAE national team's spirited showing in Asia series

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - Coach Matthew Pewtner briefing the team at the Rugby Dubai Hurricanes memorial match at  The Sevens, Dubai.  Ruel Pableo for The National

It stands to reason that two seasons without playing sevens might have left the region’s rugby players feeling out of sync with the abridged format.

Judged on the performance of the UAE side in the Asia Sevens Series two weeks ago, though, that could hardly be further from the case.

The national team won the plate in that tournament, which acted as the final qualifier for Asian teams for the World Cup Sevens in South Africa next year.

That fifth-place finish might not have won them a trip to Cape Town, but it did represent the best performance to date by the UAE in continental competition.

Since then, the players have dispersed back to their club teams – meaning friends will become foes this weekend in the Gulf Men’s League tournament at the Emirates Dubai Sevens.

And Matthew Pewtner, the assistant UAE coach, believes his Dubai Hurricanes side's title defence is going to be all the more difficult as a result.

“The relationships the players built and how close they became together was really good,” Pewtner said of the UAE’s Asia Sevens Series campaign.

“It is only going to serve to improve the camaraderie and competition among all the club teams over here.

“Most of them are going back, not only as better players but as different players as well. They will take the skills they have developed back to their clubs.

“That will uplift the standard of play at the clubs, and I think the standard of the Gulf competition at the Sevens this year will be really high.”

Pewtner represented Wales on the World Sevens Series before moving Dubai to take up a job as a schoolteacher, which he dovetails with coaching the Hurricanes.

His side will be looking to complete a hat-trick of title wins at the Sevens, but he acknowledged the new-look Hurricanes will be something of an unknown quantity.

“There’s been quite a few changes,” Pewtner said.

“Because of Covid, some of our players left the country, and one or two have moved to different clubs, but we have had a few good additions as well.

“There are a few unknown players, which I think will be exciting. We have our core players there, our captain [UAE player Boris Finck] is still there, and there a few of the players who represented UAE [in the Asia Sevens Series].

“We are excited that we are bringing in six or seven unknowns. That will bring challenges and difficulties, but we have been able to put structures and principals in place.

“Things are looking pretty good. We are excited and hopeful about retaining the title for the third time on the bounce.”

Gulf Men’s League

Pool A Dubai Hurricanes, Dubai Exiles, Abu Dhabi Harlequins, Abu Dhabi Saracens

Pool B Jebel Ali Dragons, Bahrain, Dubai Tigers, Dubai Hurricanes II

Updated: November 30th 2021, 1:28 PM