After suffering “one of the worst weeks” of his tenure last week, Mike McFarlane’s Abu Dhabi Harlequins will look to bounce back against visiting Bahrain tomorrow.
Quins were downed 20-17 by Jebel Ali Dragons at Zayed Sports City last Friday – incredibly it was a first home defeat in three years since losing to city rivals Abu Dhabi Saracens in January 2015, and just a first since April 2014.
Things hardly get easier this weekend with another West Asia Premiership title rival in the shape of Bahrain heading to the UAE capital. Louie Tonkin’s red army are desperate for a victory that will catapult them back into the title race after they were beaten by Dragons two weeks ago.
But McFarlane insists his side are looking to put things right.
“It will be a great game against a physical, hard-working side who have had a great first half to the season,” said the Quins coach, who has never lost a home game since replacing Jeremy Manning as Quins coach in the summer of 2015.
“We are really looking forward to Friday after probably one of our worst Fridays last week. The players have been reflective and have set the intensity in reaction through training this week.
“Big games come thick and fast in this league and it is why it’s such a good league and why players enjoy playing in it, so we are ready to rumble.”
All good things come to an end as the saying goes, but McFarlane was disappointed his side didn’t play their own game last week against Dragons – they fought back valiantly from 20-3 down as Dragons held on for victory.
“Of course, we know we have that spirit, we are close knit and will fight to the end of any game for each other but we shouldn’t have been in that position,” added McFarlane.
“We are frustrated we didn’t apply ourselves in a Quins way until the 60th minute. I know the players will be looking to put that right this weekend.”
Bahrain travel to the UAE capital with high hopes of a win that will see them regain touch with the leaders, although Tonkin and his side will be wary of the wounded beast.
“We know Quins are a good side. They lost their incredible home record last week so we’re wary of the wounded animal. We know a wounded animal is dangerous and they’ll be all guns blazing,” said the Welshman, who admitted his side are shorn of several players.
Despite this he is confident his side – still reeling from a narrow 26-23 defeat to Dragons on their last visit to the UAE two weeks ago – can get a result.
He added: “We know how important the game is. If we want to do well and fight for the league, we need to go to places like Quins and win.
“And we feel confident of doing that. We have a good 22 coming and a few weeks ago against Dragons we feel we let them off the hook. We gifted them 12 points. If we’d been tighter, we feel we would have won that game so we want to right those wrongs and give a good account of ourselves.
“As always Quins are a great side. They have fantastic half-packs, a good scrum, good driving maul and are coached really well. Hopefully we’ll be good enough to get the result.”
The two teams will clash on the field tomorrow evening, but Dubai Exiles and Dubai Hurricanes will come together for the weekend to host one of the UAE and Middle East’s premier youth rugby tournaments.
The clubs jointly host the annual HSBC Mini and Youth Rugby Tournament at The Sevens Stadium tomorrow and Saturday ahead of the pair’s senior men’s sides clashing in a derby match at the same venue tomorrow night.
Former England and British & Irish Lions international Lewis Moody will be in attendance, with 3,000 players expected to take part.
Rohan Nash, of Exiles, and Canes’ Peter Clapp are joint tournament directors, and Nashis excited the tournament can play a part in growing the game of rugby in the region.
“I can’t speak for other tournaments, but many clubs in the region and beyond see our tournament as a key event to attend in their mini and youth rugby season,” said Nash.
“We have established a critical mass over the past nine years, thanks in large part to the valued support of HSBC and our other tournament sponsors.
“We also rely on the army of volunteers who provide vital support on the day as well as preparing their teams for the event.
“Mini and youth club rugby in Dubai has played a significant role in attracting many male and female players from all over the world to participate in and benefit from the wonderful game of rugby.
“With the support of the UAE Rugby Federation and schools rugby, we expect to see the game of rugby grow in the UAE and for our tournament to continue be a major fixture for years to come.”
And Nash added that Canes and Exiles are happy to put aside their rivalry for the sake of the game’s future.
“Exiles and Hurricanes put aside their friendly rivalries and decided to co-host rather than offer competing tournaments,” added Nash.
“The playing grounds of both clubs are located at the world class Sevens Stadium and sharing this venue makes co-hosting the tournament a sensible decision.
“The organising committee is made up of representatives from both clubs and the volunteers on the day consist of Hurricane and Exiles parents.”
Police were searching the headquarters of the French rugby Federation on Tuesday as part of an investigation into suspicions of favouritism concerning supremo Bernard Laporte, a source close to the case told AFP.
The search at the federation’s headquarters in Marcoussis, a southern suburb of Paris, was ordered by the public prosecutor in charge of financial cases.
Laporte, whose lawyer said the federation president’s home was also searched on Tuesday, is suspected of pressuring the FFR’s appeals committee to reduce a sanction against Montpellier, owned by businessman Mohed Altrad, who owns the Altrad Group.
He was accused of favouritism after it emerged that a company he owns had signed an image rights contract with the Altrad Group in early 2017.
He eventually pulled out of the 150,000-euro ($184,000) deal but the case was investigated by the French Sports Ministry before being passed to the public prosecutor.
This month the federation signed a major shirt sponsorship deal worth “at least 35 million euros” with the Altrad Group, an industrial equipment and services company.
Despite the continuing inquiry, Laporte said that the FFR’s ethics and deontology committee had determined the new deal with Altrad would not create a “conflict of interests”.
“Today, I take responsibility for putting a flagship of French industry on the shirt to develop our sport,” Laporte said when the deal was announced.
Laporte, a former France and Toulon coach, was French Secretary of State for Sports from 2007-09 and was elected to the top FFR post in 2016.
He has announced he will stand for re-election in 2020, which would make him the boss of French rugby when the country hosts the Rugby World Cup in 2023.