Paul Radley breaks down the chances of each team competing in this year's competition
West Asia Premiership rugby: A team-by-team guide as Abu Dhabi Harlequins set out to defend five trophies
West Asia Premiership 2017/18
Abu Dhabi Harlequins
Last season: Champions
Coach: Mike McFarlane
Home ground: Zayed Sports City
Keen to talk down their chances of repeating last season’s total domination, after losing 10 key members of the team that took them to five titles. Still, they are likely to be contenders. They could win the first trophy of the new campaign in absentia on Friday. Kandy need a good win over Bahrain to deprive Quins the Western Clubs Champions League crown.
Abu Dhabi Saracens
Last season: Last
Coach: To be appointed
Home ground: To be decided
Somehow, Saracens have managed to stay sanguine about their chances this season, even though almost everything that could go wrong did go wrong in the summer. At short notice they lost their home ground at Al Ghazal, as well as their coach, Winston Cowie. Despite their optimism, a season of toil awaits.
Last season: Third
Coach: Louie Tonkin
Home ground: Saar
While the rest of Gulf rugby was seemingly in financial or political meltdown this summer, Bahrain continued merrily announcing a variety of impressive appointments. It suggests a club in rude health. On the pitch, they boast a rich array of talent. But winning a competition that requires overseas travel every second week is an exacting task.
Dubai Sports City Eagles
Last season: Eagles were formed this summer
Coach: Pat Benson
Home ground: Dubai Sports City
Gulf rugby’s arrivistes divide opinion. The UAE Rugby Federation see their strategic plan – a club that owns its home ground, with appreciable financial backing – as the ideal for the future of the game. Established clubs wonder why they got special dispensation to play Premiership rugby. The players themselves just want to compete.
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Last season: Fifth
Coach: Jacques Benade
Home ground: The Sevens, Dubai
Backing up their double win of two seasons ago proved beyond Dubai’s oldest club last season. They have made some notable additions in the off-season, though, including their spine of the grizzly pack which took Saracens to a shock title three seasons back. Playing against Exiles this term will be no tickling contest.
Last season: Sixth
Coach: Mike Wernham
Home ground: The Sevens, Dubai
The fact Hurricanes have been also-rans in the top division in recent seasons hardly befits one of the most smartly run clubs in the region. Wernham is cautious about his side’s chances of challenging for top honours this time around, but they could well surprise, especially with some notable recruits on their way.
Jebel Ali Dragons
Last season: Fourth
Coach: Henry Paul
Home ground: Jebel Ali Centre of Excellence
Managed to steer clear of the problems of other clubs after signing a substantial, long-term deal with their main sponsors, Hesco, this summer. Not far off the pace in Henry Paul’s first season in charge last time out, they are likely to push for top honours in his second – and the club’s 25th.