x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Change of culture is on the menu for the Dubai Exiles

A shortage in player numbers led to a league fixture being forfeited and the club being unable to enter the UAE Cup at all.

The Dubai Exiles are looking to attract new players to the club.
The Dubai Exiles are looking to attract new players to the club.

The Dubai Exiles are still "an institution" in UAE rugby and remain in good health, despite the malaise which led their first XV to withdraw from senior competition with three weeks of the domestic season still to run.

That is the view of Mike Wolff, the Exiles chairman, who insists there is reason for optimism at Dubai's oldest club, even if the "tip of the spear" - namely the senior men's team - has been blunted of late.

The Dubai Hurricanes and the Abu Dhabi Harlequins will meet in the final of the UAE Cup this evening, a competition which the Exiles were forced to miss entirely. They also forfeited the final match of the UAE Premiership campaign as an availability crisis bit.

Wolff insists the club will emerge stronger from their travails of this season, citing an infrastructure that supports 722 club members, a prolific youth section and even a girls netball division as evidence of health.

However, he acknowledges the first team will always be seen as the standard bearers, and must improve their fortunes for the good of the club.

"The men's section should be the tip of the spear at any rugby club, and what the young boys should aspire to be part of one day," the chairman said.

"We have got to look hard at recruitment and player retention ahead of next season. We have identified the core issues: it is about numbers and culture.

"We have to get the culture right within the squad to make sure it is appealing, welcoming and warm."

Wolff expects to be able to announce a new, full-time director of rugby within a month. Mike Cox-Hill, the UAE national team captain, has been holding the fort in an interim capacity after the ill-fated spell in charge of Ravin Du Plessis.

They are understood to have revised their intentions of recruiting a new man from overseas, with a notable profile, in favour of somebody who has a keen grasp of the amateur environment in which UAE rugby operates.

"We are a very large amateur club at the end of the day, which still relies very heavily on volunteers and that sort of ethos to see us through," Wolff said.

"You could have Sir Clive Woodward [the Rugby World Cup-winning former England manager] as the director of rugby if you could afford him, but without the enthusiasm and drive from other parts of the club, it just wouldn't work."

pradley@thenational.ae