x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Arabian Gulf players left with that sick feeling

A largely unchanged squad from last season is toiling hard under the new training regime of the taskmaster and sevens specialist Shane Thornton.

DUBAI // The Arabian Gulf may have retained much of the squad who battled nobly at the Dubai Rugby Sevens and the World Cup last season, but not everything has remained the same. The coach, Mike Lunjevich, resigned after March's World Cup and the vacancy was filled recently by another coach heralding from New Zealand, Shane Thornton. The 35-year-old Dubai Dragons winger is a sevens specialist and has based much of his training around what he learned from the famously remorseless New Zealand coach, Gordon Tietjens.

"He has a little streak of Tietjens in him," said Jonny MacDonald, the team's playmaker, whose business studies degree at Cardiff University is on hold for the weekend while he competes for the Arabian Gulf side. "At our sprints training we had people throwing up and I very nearly fainted a couple of times. "With that intensity comes a positive mentality, and he really keeps us going and praises us, which is good for us."

The vomiting has become a recurring theme. In fact, the players have been keeping a tally of who falls victim most often, with the winner being awarded some new training kit. Sean Hurley, the team captain, is top of the table. "I have worked my training around his [Tietjens] schedule, though not exactly what he does," said Thornton, who played sevens for Waikato, of his mentor's influence. "I've broken it down into what I think is good for players and what I think worked for me. It has worked with the boys and they are really racing forward."

@Email:pradley@thenational.ae Arabian Gulf's matches: 11.54am v Australia, 3.08pm v South Africa, 5.38pm v Wales