x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Quins coach to stand down

Alistair Thompson is ready to cede some of his numerous responsibilities and is standing down as head coach of the Abu Dhabi Harlequins.

ABU DHABI // With an angry-looking black-eye ripening, and another scar added to the collection on his left cheek, it was hardly surprising Alistair Thompson announced he was ready to cede some of his numerous responsibilities on Friday night. As captain, coach, No 8 and pack-leader, the Scottish teacher has overseen a rich run of success for Abu Dhabi Harlequins over the past two seasons. With the Danway Gulf Cup safely wrestled back from Bahrain after a nail-biting final in Saar, Thompson confirmed he is to let go the coaching reins for next season. "I'm standing down as head coach, so the club will be looking for a new one," said Thompson, who juggles all his rugby duties with his job as a teacher at the British School al Khubairat. "I'm looking forward to playing solely as a player next season. I don't want to commit to something that I can't commit to 100 per cent. I love it, but sometimes you can't do everything. "I'll come back into coaching, and I'll continue to coach at the British School. It may be my final season, and I want it to be as one of the boys." Thompson's decision to step down as coach has brought into focus the possibility of Wayne Marsters, the former player and coach of Abu Dhabi, returning to his old club. The affable ex-Arabian Gulf coach is also set to leave his role as head coach of the Dubai Exiles at the end of the campaign, and would likely be welcomed back in the capital. Earlier in the month, Bahrain had taken the Gulf Premiership crown from Abu Dhabi, only for the Quins to regain their cup title from them on their home patch this weekend. They would have suffered a blank season, however, had Dan Bell's injury time conversion not skewed wide of the right-hand upright. The 6-5 final triumph was no less than the Quins deserved after a season of toil, according to their outgoing coach. "I have said to these guys time and again that we are too good a side to not win any silverware this season," added Thompson. "Although it was close, I think it was just reward for a long season. The boys have kept battling. It is nice to be on the right side of a one-point game." There are still matches to be played in the second tier Emirates League, but they count for little as Al Ain have already sewn up the title. Far more significantly, rugby in the Gulf is now set for a substantial overhaul which could mean virtually no cross-border travel for UAE clubs. An Emirates-only Premiership is likely to be ratified at a meeting in Bahrain in May, with Al Ain, Toa Dubai and Sharjah Wanderers set to join the country's traditional powerhouses in the new top division. pradley@thenational.ae

Prosperity Premiership - Bahrain Danway Gulf Cup - Abu Dhabi Harlequins Emirates League - Al Ain Amblers Dubai Rugby Sevens - Dubai Dragons