x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Newcomers Abu Dhabi Saracens to meet the neighbours

"We have no expectations this season, other than to play rugby and have fun," says Steve Arnott, club's vice-chairman, ahead of their match against the Abu Dhabi Quins second XV.

The UAE rugby fixtures computer obviously has a sense of humour. When the curtain goes up on the new domestic season on Friday, the capital will play host to its first rugby derby after the city's new club were drawn against their long-established older brother.

The Abu Dhabi Saracens will be playing their first competitive match when they meet the Abu Dhabi Harlequins second XV.

They already know only too well just what is required to match the standards of their neighbours, given that the overlap between the two clubs is substantial.

A number of the Saracens players have played for Quins in the past. One of the club officials, Steve Arnott, was the vice-chairman there last season, but has now swapped clubs to serve in a similar role.

And the away team should be familiar with their surroundings, given that Saracens' home ground at Al Ghazal was where Quins played their matches until last season.

A few of the audacious schemes which the new side have planned have echoes of their neighbours, too.

Like the Harlequins, they have associated themselves with a London-based Premiership club, having already assumed the name Saracens.

They also hope to dip into the coaching expertise of the professional club at some point in the future, as Quins did when they conducted coaching exchanges with their affiliate club in the past.

Given the grand ambitions the powers-that-be at Saracens have for their nascent club, there is a danger they will expect to run before they can walk on the field.

However, they retain a sense of perspective. Their 46-man playing roster is among the smallest of UAE clubs, which is understandable given it is officially only a few months old.

It is more than enough to support one team, but they have no set goals for their first season on the field.

"We have no expectations this season, other than to play rugby and have fun," Arnott, who was also previously a chairman of Al Ain Amblers, said.

"We want to play rugby, promote the game, especially among Emiratis, and if we win a few games this season, then fantastic."

For their part, the Harlequins are happy to have another club in the neighbourhood.

"They may be a little bit of an unknown quantity but it is good to have a new local club to play and we are looking forward to it,"

Kieran Blogg, the Quins second XV coach, said.

pradley@thenational.ae


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