West Asia rugby preview: Your guide to the teams in the Gulf for 2016/17

Ahead of the coming West Asia Premiership season starting on Friday, Paul Radley offers team-by-team outlooks on the clubs in the region.

Abu Dhabi Harlequins will look to improve on their runners-up finish in both the UAE and West Asia Premierships last term in the upcoming season. Delores Jonson / The National
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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.

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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.

Dubai Exiles

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.

Dubai Hurricanes

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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