x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Dubai Wasps hold high aspirations for the future

The club are looking to continue their impressive start to the UAE Premiership campaign.

Dubai Wasps players train in midweek.
Dubai Wasps players train in midweek.

DUBAI // The Dubai Wasps may have relatively modest aspirations on the field when they welcome the Abu Dhabi Harlequins, the UAE's pre-eminent side, to The Sevens this afternoon.

However, Dubai's youngest club could already consider themselves to have accomplished their primary goal for the season, after just 80 minutes of rugby so far of the UAE Premiership campaign.

Despite giving away around 40 years worth of history to their opening day opponents, The Dubai Exiles, The Wasps secured a surprise 11-5 win, inspired by a try by Adnan Niazi, their Pakistani centre.

It was the biggest scalp in the short history of a club who are just beginning their third season in existence, and a sign of their growing upwards mobility within UAE rugby.

"Our goal is to finish in the top four and to do that we had to come up with the goods to beat one of the top teams," said Darrell McEwen, the Wasps head coach. "We were lucky enough to manage it in our first match of the season."

Should the remaining four matches of the Premiership campaign go to form, it is likely that the Wasps - rather than the Exiles - will be playing in the elite, Gulf Top Six competition after Christmas.

If they do make it, and they stress that there is much rugby to be played before then, it will mean away travel to play the likes of Doha, who are officially the top side in West Asia, and Bahrain.

Such fixtures would represent the culmination of a rapid ascent from playing weekly matches against the second-string of the established elite just over a season ago.

Mixing it with Arabian Gulf rugby's elite is a challenge the club have been readying themselves for, however.

"The idea of getting into the Top Six was optimistic, but we thought it was possible," said Craig Gibson, the club chairman.

"It [beating the Exiles] is the first top four scalp we have had so it was a seminal moment for us and hopefully it continues.

"We are taking it one step at a time but we know what our ambitions are and they are very much forward-looking."

For the first time in UAE Premiership rugby, a team's victory effort was built on a sizeable contribution from Emirati players.

Mohanned Shaker's performance at prop underpinned a powerful forward effort by the Wasps against the Exiles, while his brother Yousef also drew praise from his coach for his display in the second row.

Furthermore, the Wasps also handed a debut to Mohammed Abbas, the highly regarded national sevens team winger, in their second team's defeat to Al Ain Amblers.

"They are there because they deserve to be, not for any other reason," said McEwen, who was one of the club's founded player members three years ago and has settled into the head coach role this year.

"I was really proud of the way Mohanned played in particular because we had massive forward domination in the set piece. He was so tenacious."


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