x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Long road for Dubai Hurricanes

Abu Dhabi Harlequins have the upper hand this season but know their UAE Premiership rivals from Dubai have the strength to recover, writes Paul Radley.

Dubai Hurricanes, in yellow, are closely knit group, according to captain Chris Gregory.
Dubai Hurricanes, in yellow, are closely knit group, according to captain Chris Gregory.

In the highly competitive world of modern rugby union, teams are always seeking ways to gain an edge.

Sir Clive Woodward, England's 2003 Rugby World Cup-winning coach, often talks about the "thousand critical non-essentials" that go into success. More recently, Wales, the Six Nations favourites, have sworn by a training base in Poland than involves recovery sessions in freezing ice chambers.

The Dubai Hurricanes, meanwhile, have hit on a novel theory for bringing the good times back to their club. They are all travelling to Abu Dhabi on Friday in the same bus.

Camaraderie has never been short at the club who won all the trophies that were on offer last season, even though they have faced some serious challenges since.

"The spirits are high," said Chris Gregory, the long-serving Hurricanes captain. "We know we had a big season last year and it is always hard to follow on from that, especially when you are just amateurs."

Abu Dhabi Harlequins, who host the Hurricanes' first XV on Friday – while the Dubai club's second XV play across the city at Saracens – have already assumed their Gulf Top Six title this season.

Friday afternoon's meeting at Zayed Sports City will go a long way to deciding whether they can do the same in the UAE Premiership.

While the holders have struggled on the field, thanks in no small part to a string of serious injuries, notably to Greg Thompson and Garrett Noonan, who were both hospitalised after UAE national team duty, they have still retained perspective.

"The club was never built on success and winning games, it has always been about guys just putting in everything that they could," Gregory said.

"That is what we do. In the past 10 years, there has not been one club who has dominated for more than two or three years at a stretch.

"Our players enjoy the friendship you get from rugby, rather than having to win all the time and be competitive with each game."

Abu Dhabi's Gulf Top Six success may have signalled a changing of the guard at the top of the game in this country, but the side from the capital still have some way to go to emulate the feats of their visitors.

That is the view of Chris Davies, the Quins director of rugby, who said: "We would like to be in the position where we can win [all the titles Hurricanes did last season] but it is going to be tough."

pradley@thenational.ae