x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Changes to UAE rugby union season have improved quality of game

The competitions are faster and more competitive, which could translate to a potentially better UAE national squad.

Duncan Hall, the UAE performance manager, would be pleased to see the improvement in quality of rugby competition in the country. Christopher Pike / The National
Duncan Hall, the UAE performance manager, would be pleased to see the improvement in quality of rugby competition in the country. Christopher Pike / The National

November has barely even arrived and yet the country's leading clubs are already down to the final reckoning for UAE rugby's top prize.

Which feels weird. After just four weekends of action, it is already judgement day for teams pursuing both the first piece of silverware on offer this season, as well as a place in the elite Gulf Top Six competition after Christmas. The clubs have had to be up to speed from day one. It is a tough school – which can only be a good thing for UAE rugby.

The top division of the domestic game has been constantly tinkered with in recent years.

The format of the competition has been gradually stripped down from cross-border competition, via an overly bloated one-nation top division, to one with a play-off system, then with first-past-the-post, and now with a grand final for just the top two.

The current incarnation has been brief, to the point, and prompted a commendably high standard of rugby. There have been no whipping boys, and mercifully not one forfeiture.

One of Duncan Hall's main concerns in his role as performance manager of UAE rugby has been to raise standards in the domestic league, and thus better service the national team.

The pared down Premiership has done that, as each match, particularly those involving the Abu Dhabi Harlequins, the Dubai Hurricanes and the Jebel Ali Dragons, has felt like a cup final.

This format should be here to stay.

pradley@thenational.ae

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