x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Harlequins keen to help rivals off the pitch, beat them on it

The capital's rugby flag bearers have welcomed the arrival of the Saracens and insist the city has plenty of players to go around.

ABU DHABI // The capital's rugby flag bearers, the Abu Dhabi Harlequins, have welcomed the arrival of a new local rival and insist the city has plenty of players to go around.

The two clubs are unlikely to meet at senior level for some time yet. The Abu Dhabi Saracens will start their first season in the second tier UAE Conference competition when the new campaign kicks off.

By contrast, Quins, who have long been established as one of the leading clubs in the country and were champions of the Gulf two years ago, play in the UAE Premiership.

Therefore Saracens will begin life as the little brother, and they are even starting off with a hand-me-down pitch. The new team will call Al Ghazal Golf Club their home, using the field which the Quins vacated when they moved to their new facility at Zayed Sports City at the start of last season.

Rory Greene, the chairman of Quins, believes Abu Dhabi is well equipped to support two rugby clubs now.

"We want to beat them on the pitch, but help them off it. That is what rugby is all about," he said.

"Like Dubai, Abu Dhabi will benefit from having new clubs setting up. Dubai historically has always had a younger rugby playing demographic, which has enabled more clubs to set up.

"You need the numbers to go around, there is no point having two clubs sharing 15 players. In the last three or four years Abu Dhabi has had a much younger playing demographic and now there are enough players to go around.

"As a club we love to have our membership going up, but we are also realistic that if you have 90 senior players, they are not all going to get a game."