x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Leota buzzing to play in front of old Wasps mates

The former Wasps hooker Trevor Leota's Dubai club to face Abu Dhabi Harlequins in season's curtain-raiser before the LV Cup match

Trevor Leota, centre, the blockbusting Samoan hooker now plying his trade in Dubai, is looking forward to meeting old friends when his former club London Wasps travel to Abu Dhabi later this month. Paulo Vecina / The National
Trevor Leota, centre, the blockbusting Samoan hooker now plying his trade in Dubai, is looking forward to meeting old friends when his former club London Wasps travel to Abu Dhabi later this month. Paulo Vecina / The National

Trevor Leota, the former Wasps hooker, is relishing the prospect of playing in front of some familiar faces again when the London club travel to Abu Dhabi to take on Harlequins later this month.

The abrasive front-rower became a cult figure among the Wasps faithful during eight years at the club, with whom he was a Heineken Cup winner in 2004.

Leota left Adams Park in 2005 to play Super 14 rugby with the Free State Cheetahs, but has retained a strong affinity with the club.

Having now settled in the UAE, the former Samoa international started a new club last summer which he promptly named Dubai Wasps.

Leota will lead his Dubai side in a friendly against the Abu Dhabi Harlequins, which will act as the curtain-raiser ahead of the LV Cup match between the two London clubs of the same name at Emirates Palace Hotel on January 30.

"Who knows, I might get picked up again and go back to Wasps," Leota, 35, joked. "Our club has been going really, really well. It is just fortunate that we were here.

"I've spoken to Lawrence Dallaglio [the former Wasps captain who was the driving force behind bringing the fixture to the capital] and Steve Hayes [the Wasps chairman], and they were keen to do something with Dubai Wasps."

A 5,000-capacity temporary stadium is being constructed within the grounds of Emirates Palace, for the Anglo-Welsh Cup encounter, which will be aired live on Sky Sports in the UK.

The match between the two UAE sides will precede the main event, and Alistair Thompson, the Abu Dhabi coach, said he faces a headache given the number of players who are likely to make themselves available to play on such a stage.

"It is going to be tough," said Thompson, who would have been keen to play were he not still incapacitated by a cruciate ligament injury which has kept him out of rugby since last summer.

"Everybody wants to be involved on such a stage. That is why we play rugby. You can't keep everybody happy in terms of selection.

"But a part of me also says it is still an exhibition game and I want to keep my strongest squad prepared for [domestic competition] games."

Abu Dhabi also plan to employ a number of players from their junior teams in a variety of roles on the evening, such as ball-boys or mascots.

"We are trying to get as many of our youth players involved as possible," Steve Arnott, the vice chairman of Abu Dhabi, said.

pradley@thenational.ae