x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Rugby: Murray Strang will add to Jebel Ali Dragons' fire

Murray Strang retains hope of UAE recall despite moving into coaching role following back problems.

The Dubai-based Murray Strang had to make the runs from home to Abu Dhabi Harlequins amid back problems. Mike Young / The National
The Dubai-based Murray Strang had to make the runs from home to Abu Dhabi Harlequins amid back problems. Mike Young / The National

DUBAI // Jebel Ali Dragons have consolidated their treble-winning squad ahead of next season after confirming the arrival of Murray Strang from their main domestic rivals Abu Dhabi Harlequins.

The Scottish fly-half, who is a Dubai-resident, will switch to West Asia's top side to take up a dual role as player and backs coach.

"I have always been motivated to get into the coaching side of things," Strang said.

"I know plenty of players who love playing the game and have no desire to be involved any further than that but it is always something I have found interesting.

"I would love to carry on playing for as long as possible until I move in to coaching but I am aware I have had a few difficulties with injuries lately.

"In my heart of hearts I'd envisage at best I will be on and off in terms of fitness. If I can work that around moving into a more concentrated coaching role it would be ideal for me."

At 31, Strang still harbours aspirations of a return to international rugby with the UAE, should his persistent back problems clear to the extent that he can enjoy a consistent run in the Dragons side.

The former Glasgow Hawks stand-off has long been established as one of the leading No 10s in the country but his involvement at any level of the game was limited last season.

As well as injury, a hefty workload in his job as a chartered surveyor, plus planning for his wedding, meant travelling down the Sheikh Zayed Road to train in the capital was problematic.

"I was very keen to get back more involved than I was last season because I did miss it," Strang said.

"The only feasible way of doing that was to be with a Dubai club. It was a wrench as I have had a great time at Quins over five seasons now.

"It had reached the point where it would have been silly just to stick with the club through allegiance but not really be able to offer much to Quins."

Even though they eventually succumbed to the Dragons in three major finals, Abu Dhabi were able to cover the absence of a player who had been their mainstay for three years for much of last season.

That was due to the arrival of Jeremy Manning direct from the English professional game.

It is ironic that Strang is moving to take up a dual playing and coaching role elsewhere just as the man who assumed his red and green quartered No 10 has been appointed the player/coach of Quins. Manning's increased workload means each of the three most successful UAE clubs from the recent past will have new stewardship for next season.

Manning takes over from the Hong Kong-bound Chris Davies in the capital.

Russ Huxtable has replaced Chris Burch at Dubai Hurricanes, while Strang will join a coaching team at the Dragons headed up by Ross Mills. "Murray is still a class act as a player so it would be great to have him as a player, but he will also add value as a coach," said Olly Reynolds, the Dragons club captain.