West Asia Premiership primary focus of Dubai Sports City Eagles

Despite attracting criticism about lack of depth of infrastructure, new UAE rugby club's coach says their aspiration aspiration is to 'belong in that league'.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 21 AUGUST 2017. Pat Benson, new coach of Dubai Sports City Eagles, the new rugby team in Dubai at a practise. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Paul Radley. Section: Sport.
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Pat Benson, the coach of Dubai Sports City Eagles, says the target for the UAE’s newest club in their debut season is to prove they belong in the West Asia Premiership.

The decision to enter the Eagles straight into the top tier of domestic rugby within months of them being formed this summer has attracted some criticism.

A number of clubs voiced concerns about the depth of infrastructure and player numbers at the new team, and questioned whether they would be ready to compete with the established order.

Benson, who oversaw a first on-field training session on Monday which involved more than 40 players, said the Eagles are under pressure to prove themselves, but he believes they are capable.

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“The only aspiration I have got is to show that we belong in that league,” said Benson, a former professional with Gloucester and Worcester in the UK.

“If we do that, we have ticked the boxes. From the small amount of footage I have seen, it looks like a very competitive league. Each of the teams have a good base of quality of players.

“If we can show we belong in that environment, it is a massive tick for the club.”

Benson, who has been coaching youth players in the year he has spent in Dubai to date, expects the player base at the Eagles to expand, given the standard of facilities on offer at Sports City.

“From my experience back at home, even in terms of National League club, I’m blown away by the quality of facilities here,” Benson said.

“The pitch is high quality, as are the floodlights. I played at some clubs – at a good level – who didn’t have floodlights, so some fixtures couldn’t be fulfilled across the course of a season.

“I’m blown away by so much that I’ve seen in Dubai. It seems like with anything, when they want to do something, they go in for it wholeheartedly to try to make it special.”

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Sean Carey, the UAE international who set up the Eagles, reckons his side will be capable of creating some upsets in the Premiership.

“Pat is here to help people improve, and that is what we want to offer – a good quality of rugby but also to make it enjoyable,” Carey said.

“Our goal for the first year is just to find our feet. We want to give some of these guys who have only played Conference rugby before the chance to test themselves at Premiership level.

“I definitely think we have the right experienced players who are able to bring on the players who are new to the league.

“I think we might be there to cause some upsets this year.”