Louie Tonkin is aware his Bahrain side will be far from the finished article when the Gulf rugby season returns tomorrow, but he is nevertheless aiming to take an early opportunity to lay down a marker for 2017/18.
Bahrain visit Abu Dhabi Harlequins at Zayed Sports City tomorrow evening looking to dethrone Mike McFarlane’s men after they won the Asia Rugby Western Clubs Champions League title this time last year – a triumph that kick-started an unprecedented haul of five trophies in 2016/17.
Long term the aim of both clubs will be the West Asia Premiership which kicks off on September 22, but Tonkin insists they aren’t coming into the curtain-raiser to simply make up the numbers.
“We are going to be rotating the squad over the next few weeks and giving opportunities to payers who have worked hard all summer but we do want to try and win games,” said the Welshman.
“We know how good Quins are. We know they’ve lost some good players but they’ve also recruited some good ones as well. They’re always going to be a good side, well coached and well drilled, so we know it’s a huge challenge. And that’s something we’re hugely looking forward to.
“Obviously it’s preparation for the West Asia Premiership but we’ll focus on this tournament for the short term and getting as much out of it as we possibly can.”
Tonkin has been busy off the field during the summer strengthening both his playing and coaching squad.
He revealed Bahrain won’t be at top gear during the Champions League but his focus is more on monitoring how his squad improve on the specific areas his has targeted over the off-season.
“We’re really excited about this game. The squad have been training pretty intensely now for the last six weeks and we’re integrating the new players in,” added the 34-year-old.
“We’re perhaps not the finished article yet and I’m sure mistakes will be made but as long as we can see improvements in the areas where we have been working on in the summer we’ll be happy, and hopefully the result will look after itself.”