x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Dubai Hurricanes aim to win, but with style

Paul Beard returns to Dubai but chooses a new club for the new season.

Paul Beard, right, arrived at Hurricanes from Doha in the summer, and will help add punch to the flowing, attacking style new coach Russ Huxtable wants to play. Satish Kumar / The National
Paul Beard, right, arrived at Hurricanes from Doha in the summer, and will help add punch to the flowing, attacking style new coach Russ Huxtable wants to play. Satish Kumar / The National

DUBAI // Russ Huxtable, the new coach of Dubai Hurricanes, says his charges are committed to an attacking, expansive game plan as they seek to regain their place at the top of UAE rugby union.

Huxtable, who took over as coach from Chris Burch this summer, confesses he had little knowledge of the standard of the game in this country when he arrived in March.

From what he has seen of his side so far, though, he thinks they will be capable of challenging for honours when the new season gets under way on Friday.

“I want us to go through the first part of the season unbeaten,” said Huxtable, who coached a Super League side in Washington, DC, before moving to Dubai.

“I see no reason why we can’t do that with the squad we have now.

“Winning rugby is important to me, but so is the style we play.

“We want to play a fluid game, heads-up rugby and we should be prepared to play an element of risk, where that risk is calculated.”

The attacking remit will be aided by the arrival during the summer of Paul Beard, the well-travelled former Doha player.

The Abu Dhabi-born fly-half was capped by the Arabian Gulf during his time as a player for Dubai Exiles.

He would have been a valuable addition to the ranks of the UAE national team, but he opted instead to play for Qatar, after having moved to Doha with his job in the recruitment sector.

Now that he is back in the UAE, he opted to play for Dubai Hurricanes over his old club, the Exiles.

It means he will be vying for a starting place with the UAE No 10, James Ham, at fly-half for the side who were UAE Premiership champions in 2012.

Beard is not the only new face at a club which is being gradually overhauled, though the team was unrivalled as the leading force in the domestic game three seasons ago.

According to Guy Potter, the new first XV captain, 78 different players turned up to Hurricanes training at one point or another during the summer months.

Under the guidance of their new coach, the players were run through six weeks of aerobic work before they even touched a rugby ball.

Now even the long-established mainstays of the Hurricanes line-up are now no longer assured of their starting places, according to the captain.

“This has been the hardest preseason I have done and this is my fifth season with the Canes,” Potter said.

“The competition for places is incredible. We have had a lot of new guys and it is great for me to see the strength in depth we have.

“In certain positions, we have always relied on the same people to be fit and there has not been a plan B.

“It is going to be a real battle for most positions this year.”

Team profile

Coach Russ Huxtable

Captain Guy Potter

Key player Lindsay Fitzgerald. A powerful runner from the back-row, the former Doha loose-forward was a prolific try-scorer last season.

In a nutshell The leading force in the domestic game not so long ago, the Hurricanes still possess an enviably talented backline.

Friday fixtures

Saracens v Hurricanes, Zayed Sports City, 7pm

Dragons v Harlequins, Jebel Ali Centre of Excellence, 7pm

Wasps v Exiles, The Sevens, 7pm

pradley@thenational.ae