x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

The UAE Premiership team-by-team

Paul Radley reviews the six teams ready to battle for the top prize in UAE rugby.

Chris Gregory, centre, and the Dubai Hurricanes won the Premiership last season.
Chris Gregory, centre, and the Dubai Hurricanes won the Premiership last season.

Abu Dhabi Harlequins

Captain: Billy Graham

Director of rugby: Chris Davies

Last season: Runners-up; Gulf Top Six winners, UAE Cup winners

In a nutshell: With Imad Reyal and Jeremy Manning arriving in a back-line already brimming with talent, Quins have an embarrassment of riches in the backs.

However, they need the ball. Retention of it will not be as easy as it once was, with Alistair Thompson now retired and Jamie Clarke having left for Doha.

*****

Abu Dhabi Saracens

Captain: Ian Gregory

Director of rugby: Tui Waruhia

Last season: Promoted from UAE Conference

In a nutshell: Saracens have done everything possible off the field to prove their worth - now they have to show they are up to it on it.

With the likes of Dillon Gage, Pete Sampson and Dougie Steele having arrived, they are unrecognisable from the side thrashed on the opening day of last season in the second tier.

*****

Dubai Exiles

Captain: Gareth Venter

Head coach: Jan Venter

Last season: Fourth

In a nutshell: Entering another transition season, their new head coach has targeted a top-four finish - and thus a place in the Gulf Top Six after Christmas - as a minimum.

Not so many recognisable names from the past remain, but Stuart Quinn is still around to provide direction from the base of the scrum.

*****

Dubai Hurricanes

Captain: Chris Gregory

Head coach: Chris Burch

Last season: Champions

In a nutshell: Three stars are back - Duncan Murray, James Ham and Garrett Noonan - and recruitment was active elsewhere, too, not least in the form of a new head coach.

UAE representatives Jonny Greenwood and Antoine Bertheuil will bolster the squad as the champions seek to keep pace with Harlequins and Dragons.

*****

Dubai Wasps

Club captain: Oliver Waite

Head coach: Darrell McEwen

Last season: Fifth

In a nutshell: No longer the new boys, since Abu Dhabi Saracens have arrived in the top flight, but Wasps are still establishing themselves at the start of their third season in existence.

They were highly competitive during their maiden Premiership season and now are hoping to claw their way into the top four, with Dubai Exiles in their sights.

*****

Jebel Ali Dragons

Captain: Paul Hart

Head coach: Shane Thornton

Last season: Third; Dubai Rugby Sevens winners

In a nutshell: Two huge influences departed in the summer. Dan Heal, last season's club captain, returned to England while Trent Eastgate, the first XV captain, also left.

A summer review into why they have failed to convert a wealth of talent into trophies resulted in a mass influx, with as many as 15 potential new first-teamers arriving.

pradley@thenational.ae

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