x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Dubai Hurricanes like to fly under the rugby radar

Dubai Hurricanes have been dormant in recent years but could strike any time like at the season opening memorial match, writes Paul Radley.

Guy Potter, the new captain for the Dubai Hurricanes, is back from a long-term injury. Satish Kumar / The National
Guy Potter, the new captain for the Dubai Hurricanes, is back from a long-term injury. Satish Kumar / The National

A week after most of their rivals dusted off the summer cobwebs for the first time, Dubai Hurricanes will return to the playing field this afternoon for their traditional, in-house curtain-raiser to the new season.

Their annual memorial match, which is played in honour of three Hurricanes players who have passed away, will be the first match action most of the players have seen for nearly six months.

Their rivals might be wondering where the side who were the dominant force in UAE rugby not so long ago have been lately.

After a rare barren campaign last time out, the Hurricanes have flown under the radar during the hot season.

The contrast to the rest of the UAE Premiership has been notable.

The champions, Jebel Ali Dragons, spent most of the off-season recruiting players of pedigree and trying to coax Rory Lawson, the 31-cap Scotland scrum-half, out of retirement to play for them.

Meanwhile, the side who are seen as their main rivals, Abu Dhabi Harlequins, have a former Heineken Cup winner for a player-coach, as well as a paid director of rugby – who is Arabic-speaking, nonetheless.

Elsewhere in the domestic top flight, Xodus Wasps, Dubai Exiles and Abu Dhabi Saracens have all penned significant sponsorship agreements over the summer months.

It seems odd to think the Hurricanes could go into the new campaign, which starts next Friday, as the least heralded side in the competition, given the club’s formidable pedigree.

Just three seasons ago they won every trophy available in the region and a season later they were again UAE Premiership champions.

The side that achieved such heights has had a significant overhaul this summer, with a new captain and coach, as well as the addition of proven recruits from elsewhere in the Arabian Gulf.

If none of the other clubs have noticed, that suits them, said the new captain, Guy Potter.

“We’ve never really cared what other people are doing,” said Potter, the UAE national team back-row forward who is playing his first game back after long-term injury.

“We have grown from being a start up club and just because we haven’t gone out of our way to invite attention, doesn’t mean we haven’t gone about preparing in the same way.

“We have prepared even harder than we have before, so if nobody is talking about us, we have the potential to spring a surprise on them.”