x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Dragons back Connell

Today's opener between the Dubai Dragons and the Dubai Hurricanes could be settled by the intriguing duel at fly-half.

The Hurricanes (in yellow) in action last season. They face Abu Dhabi Harlequins tonight.
The Hurricanes (in yellow) in action last season. They face Abu Dhabi Harlequins tonight.

Today's Arabian Gulf Premiership opener between the Dubai Dragons and the Dubai Hurricanes could be settled by the intriguing duel at fly-half. The Dragons snapped up Henry Connell, who had turned out for the second string of English professional outfit Leeds Rhinos before moving to Dubai, during the summer. He has impressed during pre-season in the Dragons' problem position at stand-off, and their skipper James Wellings is expecting big things from him.

However, the Hurricanes captain Chris Gregory believes his side's tried and trusted No 10 deserves to be regarded as the best. "Our fly-half, Chris Doyle, has done it for the last few seasons and I'm sure he is very capable of doing it again this season," said Gregory. "I've heard the new Abu Dhabi fly-half and the new Dragons fly-half are the best in the country. They've got to prove it. We know we've got the best one - he has proved it for the past two seasons.

"He has been the best fly-half, and they have to take that off him, rather than him having to prove he is still the best." Abu Dhabi's Jo Czerpak, who played in the same England colts side as World Cup winner Phil Vickery in his youth, is currently the man in possession of the Arabian Gulf No 10 shirt. Czerpak was on the scoresheet for the Abu Dhabi Harlequins when they beat the Dubai Exiles in the Gulf Cup last week. The two sides meet again at Al Ghazal Golf Club in the capital tonight.

The Arabian Gulf sevens side continue their preparations for their most rigorous season to date when they host a Tri-Nations tournament this weekend. Mike Lunjevich's side will face Hong Kong and Kazakhstan will play the Sharjah Wanderers tonight (kick-off 7pm). They will then play the same opposition, plus a side made up of schoolboys from the touring New Zealand side Christ's College, in Abu Dhabi tomorrow evening (8pm).

The touring school have a rich rugby heritage, with the current Wallabies coach Robbie Deans and 2006 All Black James Ryan among their alumni. They take on the Arabian Gulf's U18 side tonight at Al Ghazal. pradley@thenational.ae