x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

London Wasps and Harlequins eager to shine in sun

The two English Premiership sides look forward to attacking rugby as they escape to Abu Dhabi for their forthcoming LV Cup match.

Ben Jacobs, seen on the attack for Wasps, is eager to play in Abu Dhabi.
Ben Jacobs, seen on the attack for Wasps, is eager to play in Abu Dhabi.

Of all the anticipated benefits of London Wasps and Harlequins decamping to the Middle East to play their forthcoming LV Cup match, the chance to escape the winter blues is uppermost in the minds of the players.

The London rivals will play a group match of the Anglo-Welsh competition at a temporary, 5,000-seat stadium at Emirates Palace hotel on January 30.

A professional fixture in the 15-a-side code has never been played on these shores, and this is the first time a competitive British fixture will have been played outside the United Kingdom.

Top-class rugby is not alien to the UAE's rugby public, given the annual Dubai Rugby Sevens, yet the fare on show at Emirates Palace might be rather different.

While the abridged version is fast-paced and dotted with tries, the 15s game is often more attritional, especially during the cold-winter months when the pitches are usually least suited to a running game.

However, Ben Jacobs, the Wasps centre and captain, believes the chance to swap the UK's brutal winter for the sun of Abu Dhabi will prompt a switch to attacking rugby.

"Hopefully, the crowd will get to see plenty of tries in this game," Jacobs said.

"When we played them last week it was a battle of attrition amongst the forwards. They came off the field saying how hard it had been for 80 minutes.

"With the weather and climate in Abu Dhabi, I would expect to see much more running rugby and an entertaining game for the fans. We are all looking forward to getting out into the sun, training hard and playing this very important LV Cup game."

The make-up of both teams will differ from those seen when Harlequins beat Wasps 17-10 in the Aviva Premiership at the weekend.

Both will be shorn of their England contingent, meaning Wasps will have to do without two of their most potent attacking weapons, scrum-half Joe Simpson and centre Riki Flutey.

However, the nominal home team will still have some pace to call on, in the form of two former Dubai Rugby Sevens stars, Tom Varndell and Richard Haughton, the Wasps wingers.

"This is Wasps against Harlequins - a fixture steeped in tradition - so I guarantee nobody will be holding back when we step onto that pitch," Jacobs said. "Everyone knows how important the local rivalry between [the two teams] is, and we hope the fans out in Abu Dhabi get behind the teams.

"A cup game like this gives a chance for some of the younger players to break into the team. These are the type of hungry young players who are looking to get a starting place."

pradley@thenational.ae

Tickets on sale

Tickets are on sale for the biggest rugby match ever staged in Abu Dhabi – the January 30 game at the Emirates Palace hotel between London rivals Wasps and Harlequins. The LV Cup match, which will be televised worldwide, will be the first time a competitive British rugby union fixture has been staged abroad and is seen as another milestone in Abu Dhabi’s emergence as a capital of major international sport. Tickets are being sold at Etihad’s Abu Dhabi outlets in Al Wahda Mall, Khalidiya Mall, Madinat Zayed and Marina Mall, as well as the Etihad store in Dubai’s Marina Mall. Tickets also are available at the main reception and the west wing beach club at Emirates Palace, and will be sold on the evenings of January 20 and 27 at the Zayed Sports City headquarters of Abu Dhabi Harlequins. Grandstand tickets are Dh200 for adults and Dh100 for those under age 16. Standing tickets are Dh100 for adults and Dh50 for under-16s. Abu Dhabi Harlequins will play Dubai Wasps as a prelude to the Wasps-Harlequins match. The first game starts at 5pm; the second, which will be played under floodlights, at 7.15pm.