x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Dubai Hurricanes on the hunt for coach to drive them forward

Interim coach James Ham is fit again and set for a return to the backline.

James Ham coached the Dubai Hurricanes last season, but after recovering from injury, he will return as player. Pawan Singh / The National
James Ham coached the Dubai Hurricanes last season, but after recovering from injury, he will return as player. Pawan Singh / The National

DUBAI // Dubai Hurricanes, the UAE Premiership champions, have begun preparations for the start of the new domestic campaign without a senior head coach.

The city's pre-eminent rugby club retained their league title with James Ham, who took up the post after injury ruled him out of playing for the entire season, at the helm as interim coach last term.

However, Ham has now recovered from the long-term injury, which he exacerbated playing five-a-side football midway through the Premiership season, and is eyeing a return to the Hurricanes backline as well as the kicking duties.

"Having James back playing is definitely what we want, despite what he did last season [as coach]," said Chris Gregory, the Hurricanes captain.

"He can still have his influence while he is playing, so it will not be a total loss but we are now looking for a head of rugby to organise what is happening on training days.

"We have a lot of players who can take sessions and have coaching experience now, but we need someone there to arrange things in a senior role."

The Hurricanes have maintained their place at the top of the domestic game in recent years, even though the coaching role has changed hands a variety of times.

They swept the board of domestic honours two seasons ago with Brian Allen, and then Steve Holohan, filling the role of head coach.

When both subsequently returned to their homelands, and with a number of senior players sidelined, the Hurricanes struggled badly in the first half of last season.

Yet they rallied from the start of 2012, to the extent they retained their UAE Premiership title and finished runners up in the UAE Cup on Ham's watch. They also finished second to Doha in the West Asia play off final.

Whoever does fill the breach will find some heavy artillery at their disposal. As well as Ham, Duncan Murray and Garrett Noonan, two UAE internationals who were notable absentees for much of last season, are also set to return.

To avoid a repeat of the torrid start they made last season, the Hurricanes have made a point of starting training early ahead of the new campaign.

The season is pencilled in to start in mid-September with the traditional memorial match for their former players Jamie Black and Mark Filby.

Ahead of that, those Hurricanes players who are currently in the city have been undertaking boot camp style training sessions under the guidance of their former player, Bruce King, on Jumeirah Beach.

"We are looking to avoid a slow start like that of last season, so the senior players met to put a training plan in place in parallel with the search [for a coach]," said Greg Thompson, the Hurricanes and UAE lock forward.

pradley@thenational.ae

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