West Asia rugby preview: Your guide to the teams in the Gulf for 2016/17
Ahead of the coming West Asia Premiership season starting Friday (see fixtures in the sidebar at left), Paul Radley offers team-by-team outlooks for the clubs in the region:
Abu Dhabi Harlequins
The capital’s largest club continues to grow, with record numbers of players registering for pre-season. Keeping everyone engaged might prove a tough task, but a club intent on pursuing silverware on all fronts will need all hands to the pump.
Abu Dhabi Saracens
Winston Cowie, a former Doha captain, has taken charge as coach after the troubles of last season. They weathered the storm after losing their main sponsor 12 months ago, and still retain 13 players from the West Asia title-winning side of 2015.
Al Ain Amblers
Propped up the UAE Premiership last season, and could be set for an even more challenging campaign this time around, after losing a host of their talented core of Fijian players to Harlequins, Dragons and Exiles.
More Gulf rugby
• Paul Radley’s questions: The key factors for the Gulf clubs on the eve of the new season
One of the region’s most decorated clubs made a concerted recruitment drive this summer, in their bid for a return to the glory days. Louie Tonkin, the coach, arrived from Wales with a raft of new players following.
Years of underachievement were consigned to the bin in the most convincing possible fashion, as the Exiles won both major XVs trophies. Celebrating their 50th year, they are there to be shot at: historically, all clubs say they enjoy beating Exiles more than anyone else.
Formalised an association with the New Zealand franchise of the same name this summer. As a result, their coaches have been able to tap into the Wellington club’s expertise. The knowledge gleaned may help their bid to reach the summit of Gulf rugby again.
The dominant force beyond the UAE’s shores in Gulf rugby have lost three key players from the side who won 13 matches in a row last season. Jamie Clarke, their captain, has relocated to Dubai, while Tom Nolan and Aaron McLelland have departed the region.
Jebel Ali Dragons
If the Dragons are to make a return to the winners podium after a couple of fallow seasons, it is likely to be exciting to watch. Henry Paul, a former sevens star for England, has taken over the coaching reins and is intent on playing an expansive game.
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Published: September 21, 2016 04:00 AM