x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Strength in numbers for Abu Dhabi Harlequins

The Abu Dhabi Harlequins are confident they have the depth to put out up to five sides in their name this year.

Abu Dhabi Harlequins players are put through their paces during a training session.
Abu Dhabi Harlequins players are put through their paces during a training session.

ABU DHABI // The Abu Dhabi Harlequins' boast of being the UAE's biggest rugby club is backed up by the fact they could put out five teams this season.

Players have appeared from everywhere, and in great numbers, to such an extent that there should be three men's teams, a veterans' team and the women's sevens side as well.

And that is not to mention hundreds of children affiliated with the club, based at the lush green pitches of Zayed Sports City in the capital.

"We are going to be a very strong club this year," said the club captain Renier Els, a 27 year old from South Africa.

"You only have to look at the big numbers who already turn up every Monday and Wednesday for training when it's so hot and, of course, it's during Ramadan."

"We are going to push for three teams for the men, a first, second and third. If you have the numbers, then why not do it? A lot of the guys don't mind playing second or third, just as long as they get a game.

"There are a lot of jobs opening up in Abu Dhabi and the club are reaping the benefits from the amount of people who are arriving here. I also think we have 400 to 600 kids who train with us."

Chris Davies, the men's coach, has a CV that any rugby club in Europe would be happy to look at.

He was at London Wasps until January this year where he was an academy coach and he also did analysis for the first team.

So the Welshman, who lives in Dubai, has a fine rugby pedigree from working with some of the best in the game and did not want to turn down the opportunity to work with the Abu Dhabi Quins.

"My vision is for us to play attractive rugby and have that as a brand throughout the club," he said. "It's important to bring everyone through, both men and women, with that ethos.

"I was fortunate enough to watch the game earlier this year when [the Dubai] Wasps played the [Abu Dhabi] Harlequins senior side at Emirates Palace and you could see there were some really good players in the team. There was a good, brand of rugby that I definitely believe in.

"There was a lot of width, depth and tempo. There is a good mix of cultures and nationalities and that is a great challenge in itself.

"I would compare this club to most in the UK, although I obviously don't mean the big Premiership sides, in terms of the organisation and talent."

And with the World Cup starting in New Zealand next month, which will confirm the top rugby nation, Els is sure that the winner will not come from Europe.

"From what I've seen in recent weeks, they play a different game in the southern hemisphere compared to the northern hemisphere," he said.

"In the north, it is very physical up front and a much slower game, whereas New Zealand, Australia and South Africa get the ball wide and they all have a lot of speed. I think the winner is coming from these three.

"As a Springbok fan, I would even be happy if the All Blacks win because it would be good for rugby."



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