ABU DHABI // Jeremy Manning, the stand-out player in UAE rugby at present, says moving to play part-time rugby in the capital has helped revive his love for the sport.
The Abu Dhabi Harlequins fly-half arrived at the club this summer direct from the highest level of the professional game in England.
After seven years as a full-time rugby player, he opted not to chase another contract and headed instead for the UAE to start a new career as a fitness instructor.
The new climate into which he has immersed himself has some obvious perks.
For example, he had been able to skip the previous weekend's fixture to attend a wedding.
Try using that excuse as a paid professional in the high-stakes game of the English Premiership.
If his appetite for the game had waned, his aptitude for it has done anything but, judging by a series of command performances at No 10 for the undefeated Quins.
He scored a hat-trick of tries and 27 points in total in his latest masterclass against the Dubai Exiles at Zayed Sports City on Friday.
"I'm not here to take the limelight," said Manning, whose virtuoso display alongside Ed Lewsey, another pedigree half-back, was rather counterproductive to that aim.
"I'm here to have fun and enjoy my rugby again. Over the past few years - no disrespect to the UK game - it has got a bit boring and I sort of lost the motivation to play at the top level.
"Out here, the boys are fantastic, they have welcomed me really well. They have welcomed me to the club and there is fantastic camaraderie.
"There are going to be people out there to get me, but that is up to them. It is their choice not mine."
Manning's exploits underpinned Quins' a fourth successive win at the start of the UAE Premiership season.
It all but guarantees them a berth in the grand final with a game of the regular campaign - against the defending champions Dubai Hurricanes - still to go.
"We have spoken about being ruthless and the scoreline today shows that we have managed that," said Chris Davies, the Quins director of rugby.
Jan Venter, the Exiles coach, acknowledged that his side stood little chance against "a quality" home team but hopes the trip to the capital will have no lasting effects on his emerging squad players.
"Life is not easy," the coach said. "The most important thing will be how these guys bounce back from that because this was a hiding.
"In the other losses we have had we have been in the game, so it will be a test of the character of our group of players."
BELL SHINES IN DRAGONS' TRIUMPH
ABU DHABI // After several barren years, when finding a fly-half of substance in the UAE was about as likely as seeing a snowman on Jumeirah beach, there is now a surfeit of high-quality No 10s plying their trade here.
While Jeremy Manning, the former English Premiership professional, was tearing the Dubai Exiles to shreds for the table-topping Abu Dhabi Harlequins on Friday, two emerging forces at fly-half were doing battle across the city at Al Ghazal.
Dougie Steele, who also arrived in the capital in the summer from the UK to less fanfare than Manning but with no little pedigree, was the leading light again for the Abu Dhabi Saracens.
However, the Scottish stand-off could not halt the city's youngest club subsiding to a fourth defeat of the season, 49-16 against the title-chasing Jebel Ali Dragons.
The Dragons' effort was piloted by a fly-half who was once thought of as one of the brightest talents in Arabian Gulf rugby, but who is still feeling his way back to form after serious injury.
Daniel Bell missed the entirety of his debut campaign in the UAE last season following a move from Bahrain, after having reconstructive surgery to repair a ruptured patella tendon.
He was restored to the pivotal first-receiver role for the Dragons yesterday.
And he responded with a fine display with the boot and embellished the comprehensive victory with a try of his own.
"We have a lot of choices at No 10," said Paul Hart, the Dragons captain.
"We moved Tim Fletcher to centre this time and he really helped Dan out.
"Indiscipline cost us in the first half [the Dragons were just six points ahead at the interval] but substitutions and fitness in the second half meant we were comfortable in the end."
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