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Dubai Hurricanes player-coach Chris Burch.
Dubai Hurricanes player-coach Chris Burch.

Dubai Hurricanes coach Chris Burch faces battle to keep national team place

The Australian's work in coaching Duncan Murray and Harry Woods at the Hurricanes could leave him struggling to get back into the UAE side once he recovers from injury.

As selection dilemmas go, the one that faces Chris Burch, the Dubai Hurricanes player-coach, is probably unique.

The Australian schoolteacher is the man in possession of the UAE national team No 12 shirt, following his debut campaign in the Cup of Nations at the end of 2012.

He is currently recuperating from medial ligament damage, but is keen to retain his place in the starting line-up when the UAE begin their annual Asian Five Nations dogfight in April.

And yet his chances of making that selection are being undermined by the other part of his job description at present.

The Hurricanes midfield pairing of Duncan Murray and Harry Woods is among the classiest in Arabian Gulf rugby.

With Murray available again after a long time out, and Woods becoming eligible for UAE selection in March, each of them will have a strong claim to a place in the UAE side when the Five Nations rolls around.

So unless Burch takes leave of his responsibilities to his team and drops his teammates-come-rivals, he could be managing his way out of a starting berth in the national team.

"It is an interesting scenario," said Woods, 33, the Hurricanes outside centre.

"We have a few laughs and a few wisecracks at each other about it in training.

"Burchy is a good rugby man and he is as keen for the Hurricanes to do well as he is for the UAE to do well. He is keen, I am keen and Red [Murray] is keen, so it is going be good competition."

Today, the Hurricanes and their national team midfield-elect will face up against Dubai Exiles, their fellow tenants at The Sevens.

"It will be interesting with me, Red and Harry competing for places," Burch said. "Hopefully it says something about the strength we have at the Canes."

After both the Hurricanes and the Exiles lost last weekend, to Bahrain and the Abu Dhabi Harlequins respectively, each has much to do to get back in contention in the Gulf Top Six.

The Harlequins will put their unbeaten record on the line when they face arguably the toughest assignment of their title defence with an away trip to Doha today.

The Jebel Ali Dragons continue their pursuit of the domestic triple crown when they entertain Bahrain at the Centre of Excellence.

 

sports@thenational.ae

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