Their emergence has led to fears clubs could be ravaged of players – including his own – but Dubai Hurricanes director of rugby Mike Wernham believes the emergence of Dubai Eagles is a good thing for rugby in the UAE.
Rumours the new Dubai Sports City outfit would feature next season was confirmed at the start of July when the new 2017/18 calendar was released, immediately leading to fears that a centrally located top tier club in the UAE’s second city would result in mass player exoduses from other Dubai clubs.
And while the likes of Dubai Sharks and Arabian Knights have been left searching for a new home – having essentially been kicked out of DSC – Wernham is happy the Eagles have landed.
This is despite the fact Canes have lost hooker and UAE international Josh Ives to the newly established outfit over the summer.
“We haven’t lost, at this moment, too many players. Just Josh Ives so far who’s joined their coaching staff as a rugby development officer,” said Wernham.
“It’s more of a career path move rather than wanting to leave Hurricanes. We’re sad to see Josh go, being a UAE player and an outstanding club man, but we completely understood it.”
Sharks are one side who have reportedly seen a clutch of players leave for Eagles, while consternation greeted the news that the long-time Sports City residents, as well as Knights, had been issued an ultimatum of join the new team or find a new home.
But Wernham welcomes them. “It’s an exciting prospect what’s coming to Sports City. I know Sean Carey (Eagles director of rugby) well, having been a former Canes player,” Wernham said.
“What they’ve got there, I’m a huge believer in that we should be trying to grow rugby in the UAE and Middle East so they did have our full support, we’re encouraging them, we just want to make sure it’s done in the right way.
“There was a bit of a surprise the way it came out suddenly at the end of the season via one email. There had been rumours circulating for two or three years.
“But having spoke to Josh it seems numbers are getting bigger each session and we’re looking forward to going there and hosting them next season.”
Wernham says he has been hugely encouraged by the club’s start to pre-season, with average numbers at gym sessions hitting 45, while they have also been busy on the recruitment front too. Former Wales Under-20, Wales sevens and Newport Gwent Dragons winger Matthew Pewtner has been appointed as the club’s new back coach.
Wernham added: “Matthew’s was an absolutely superb CV to read. He played for Newport Gwent Dragons for 10 years, played on the international sevens circuit too.
“It came by chance and after a few Skype interviews we know he’s going to be a great addition, he’s excited to be coming out and joining Hurricanes.”
Pewtner, 26, arrives in Dubai having been forced to retire from playing in early 2016 due to concussion concerns.
“As a result of Eagles coming and setting up at Sports City, it’s meant several guys leaving clubs around there,” said Wernham.
“We’re not a club that goes heavy in terms of recruitment. We just like to try and send a message of what we offer and give the best experience possible. We’re always going to remain competitive as possible and what we give in return is a competitive package.
“We’ve got some really good experience and some really good younger guys too. And we know with new teachers coming in for the new term, that will raise competition too and keep everyone on their toes.”