DUBAI // Jebel Ali Dragons have appointed Henry Paul as their new coach.
The former England centre, who also played rugby league for his native New Zealand, will officially start duties with the club on July 1.
Paul, who won the Dubai Rugby Sevens with England in 2005, had been planning to move to Dubai for some time as his fiancee lives in the city.
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Thanks to their sponsors, Hesco, the Dragons, who were domestic treble winners in 2013 and 2014, have been able to recruit him as their first part-time professional coach. They will also be assisting his search for full-time employment.
His official title will be “head coach and club ambassador” and he is understood to be in the process of finding new talent to recruit for the senior side already.
The club also hope he will drive the expansion of the mini and youth section, as well as focus on the abbreviated format, as they target the Eden Park Series and Dubai Sevens.
Paul enjoyed a successful sevens career with England as a player, and subsequently coached the Russia sevens side.
“There has been huge interest in appointing a new head coach after our previous years successes in the men’s section and with the growing mini and youth section,” Mike Lewis, the Dragons chairman, said.
“Henry will add, and be able to develop on what we have built previously. He is exactly what the club needs during this period of change.
“His experience speaks for itself. He is a perfect fit for our club, with his style of rugby, commitment and leadership. He is a natural fit, and will help take us to the next level.”
The appointment is a remarkable coup for Dragons, who were the leading force in Arabian Gulf rugby until recently, but have fallen behind this season.
His arrival will add to an already enviable pool of coaches living in the city who had top-class playing careers.
Dragons players who are also involved in the UAE set up, for example, will have Paul coaching them on a weekly basis.
When they are on national duty, they will benefit from the expertise of Apollo Perelini, the former league and union international who is currently in charge of the UAE team.
Steve Thompson, the 2003 World Cup-winning hooker for England, has also given specialist scrum clinics for the UAE team in the past.
“I am personally excited to be involved in Henry’s training session as a player,” Paul Hart, the Dragons director of rugby who also plays for UAE in the forward pack, said.
“Although his expert sevens coaching may be wasted on a man of my skill set, I am massively motivated to work hard and improve as part of the senior 15-a-side teams.”
Hart hopes Paul’s arrival will help restore the Dragons first XV to the heights reached in 2013 and 2014, when they swept every trophy available.
“This is a huge step in the positive direction the club is looking to take,” Hart said.
“We aim to maintain the club’s brilliant longstanding ethos, whilst greatly improving the playing organisation and coaching set up.
“We will strive to develop the current player base and attract key new players who will be expected to buy into the club’s history of success and camaraderie.”
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