Matthew Pewtner aims to 'prove my worth' after being named Dubai Hurricanes director of rugby

Former Wales international sevens player was promoted from his role as assistant coach

Matthew Pewtner hopes his appointment as director of rugby at Dubai Hurricanes aged just 29 will help with his ultimate aim of returning to professional rugby one day – this time as a coach.

The former Wales international sevens player was promoted from his role as assistant coach at the Hurricanes after Mike Wernham vacated the position last week.

Pewtner has been part of the coaching staff at the club since arriving in Dubai in 2017 to take up a teaching job.

Six months earlier, he had seen his professional career ended aged just 25 because of concussion.

When Wernham privately expressed his intention to step down earlier this year, Pewtner was glad to be considered for the role.

“I had the sense Mike was wanting to spend more time with his family, and in January we started to chat about things,” said Pewtner, who formally interviewed for the role at the end of February.

“I have been involved with the Canes for three years now. I have enjoyed all my time with the club, and they have been great to me, helping settle in to Dubai.

“To move on to become director of rugby was the next logical step.

"I’ve been coaching now for four seasons and have done a pretty decent job, I think.

“Taking this next step is good for my progression as a coach.”

Pewtner says he aspires to a return to the elite game at some point, and hopes he can prove his value at the Hurricanes first.

“My next goal is to transition into the professional environment,” Pewtner said.

“Having played at the top level for 10 years, that is the sort of environment I want to go back into.

"Obviously, it would be in a different capacity now, as it wouldn’t be as a player, unfortunately.

“As a coach, that is the next step. Aged 29, with my Level 3 [coaching certificate] I feel like I am in a good position now to kick on and move towards that.

“First of all, I need to prove my worth as the DOR with Hurricanes.”

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - Coach Mike Wernham speaking with the team at the Rugby Dubai Hurricanes memorial match at  The Sevens, Dubai.  Ruel Pableo for The National

Wernham expects his successor to thrive given the evidence of the past three seasons as his understudy.

“My announcement timing was to make sure Matt had enough time in the off season to get the coaching team around him that he wants,” Wernham said.

“Retention and recruitment of players is always really important, and I will still be helping out on that front over the next couple of months.

“I am really, really happy that there has been an internal appointment.

“Matt has a great coaching pedigree and a really good relationship with the players, and their family members.”

Hurricanes finished a season that was curtailed prematurely because of coronavirus as third-placed in the West Asia Premiership, and runners up in the UAE Premiership.

With the experience of playing World Series rugby for Wales in the past, Pewtner has also helped plotting title wins for the Hurricanes in each of the past two Dubai Rugby Sevens.

He says the next task is to carry their success from the abridged format over to the 15-a-side game.

“Mike has created an environment at the Canes where everyone enjoys coming to training,” Pewtner said.

“That is actually difficult to do. There are so many different personalities, and so many different backgrounds. What one person might enjoy might not appeal to everyone.

“Mike created a really good culture where everyone wants to do well for the club.

“I want to maintain that, and the fun side, while also focusing on the performance side of things.

“When Mike was doing it, I was able to step away from some of the difficult conversations, but I have got experience in doing that, too.

“I think that, as long as the players respect you as a coach, hopefully they will respect your decisions, so long as you can justify them.”