Louie Tonkin excited about high-quality competition Asia Rugby Champions League provides

Matt Jones 29/08/2018
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Bahrain players rejoice after scoring a try in the West Asia Cup final against Exiles.

Louie Tonkin is excited to be part of this year’s Asia Rugby Western Clubs Champions League tournament as it provides his otherwise isolated Bahrain team with high-quality competition ahead of the new campaign.

The new Gulf rugby season begins in earnest this weekend with the return of the Champions League.

The competition, which has become the traditional curtain-raiser to the rugby season in the UAE and Gulf as a whole, kicks off in Sri Lanka as Kandy host West Asia Cup winners Bahrain on Friday.

Abu Dhabi Harlequins also feature at the mini three-team tournament – receiving an invite after West Asia Premiership champions Jebel Ali Dragons decided against taking part.

It means that the same three teams as last year are taking part, with Mike McFarlane’s Quins looking to defend their crown and lift it for the third season in a row.

But Bahrain will hope to add the title to the West Asia Cup they won in a pulsating 2017/18 in which silverware was highly contested between Tonkin’s men, as well as Quins, Jebel Ali Dragons and Dubai Exiles.

Jebel Ali celebrate after victory in Bahrain saw them win the West Asia Premiership.

Jebel Ali celebrate after victory in Bahrain saw them win the West Asia Premiership.

“Usually it’s supposed to be the West Asia Cup, West Asia Premiership champions and the Sri Lankan champions, but the Dragons pulled out for whatever reasons,” said Tonkin, whose side flew out to Sri Lanka on Wednesday.

“Quins finished second so subsequently got invited and accepted the challenge. I’m really happy to be playing Quins again. A really good group of lads and we love competing against them, so I’m delighted they accepted the invite to be part of the competition.

“It’s a great competition to be part of this time of year. It’s so difficult for us in Bahrain as we’re isolated, to get good fixtures before the season starts, so we’re always delighted to be part of this competition.

“It’s a bit more silverware if you win but we can also rotate the squad, get players integrated and have two really good hit-outs before the league starts.

“We’re very excited about playing Kandy because it’s so different to the type of opposition we face out here. They’re so fluent in their attacking play, so quick, so we’re looking forward to playing them and testing out our defence against such a good attacking unit.”

This year, all three teams will play once at home, after Bahrain travelled to both Kandy and Abu Dhabi last year to ensure the competition went ahead.

Kandy welcome Bahrain on Friday, with Kandy heading to the UAE capital to play Quins at Zayed Sports City next Friday, September 7. The tournament concludes the following Friday, September 14, when Quins travel to Bahrain.

The competition looks to be wide open in 2018/19 after the major trophies were shared between four teams last term – breaking Quins’ utter dominance of the rugby landscape in the Gulf in 2016/17.

Dragons claimed the main Premiership title, while Bahrain won the Cup. Exiles claimed the Dubai Sevens crown, while the UAE Premiership was also theirs.

Dubai Hurricanes won the West Asia Trophy and Quins lifted the inaugural UAE Premiership Cup and kept the Champions League title.

Louie Tonkin led Bahrain to a first trophy in eight years last season.

Louie Tonkin led Bahrain to a first trophy in eight years last season.

“Like everyone else we’ve got to cope with the Gulf mindset of a summer, so we didn’t start back until August 1,” Tonkin said of his side’s summer preparations.

“But we’ve had a really good four weeks in preparation for this game, which does come a little early perhaps, but we had to fit it in somewhere.

“We’ve only had four weeks training so we will be pretty raw. We’ve had a few new players come in, a few Cardiff University graduates who are engineers who will be working in Saudi. We’ve jumped on them and they’ll be really good additions to our group.”

Tonkin is also happy to have a home fixture this year, adding: “It’s been structured this year so all three teams have a home game.

“It’s a great opportunity for us as it’s difficult to get a home game these days, teams don’t seem to want to travel to us, so we’re delighted Quins are gladly coming to us.”

Asia Rugby Western Clubs Champions League fixtures:

Friday

Kandy v Bahrain

September 7

Abu Dhabi Quins v Kandy

September 14

Bahrain v Abu Dhabi Quins

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Apollo Perelini's UAE prepare for 2018 Asian Games campaign in Indonesia

Matt Jones 29/08/2018
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The UAE are in Indonesia for the 2018 Asian Games.

The UAE will take on powerhouses Japan and Hong Kong when they kick off their Asian Games campaign in Indonesia on Thursday.

Apollo Perelini has taken a 12-man, all-Emirati squad with him to Jakarta for the 2018 Games, with the rugby sevens tournament featuring 12 teams.

This is the sixth appearance of rugby sevens at the Asian Games and eighth in total for rugby, since union was first played at the 1998 games in Bangkok. Sevens was also played in 1998 and has been played exclusively since 2006.

South Korea won the first two sevens titles but Japan are three-time defending champions, with Hong Kong defeated in the final four years ago in Incheon.

Matches were scheduled to be played at the Wibawa Mukti Stadium in Bekasi but have been moved to the Gelora Bung Karno Sports Complex between Gelora and Senayan.

Perelini’s charges have been drawn in Pool C alongside South Korea and Sri Lanka, as well as minnows Afghanistan.

They kick off their campaign in the three-day tournament on Thursday, August 30, opening up against the Sri Lankans, before taking on Afghanistan in their second pool game.

They will play Korea on Friday before the knockout phase commences, with the tournament concluding on Saturday.

Perelini’s squad includes three players from the UAE Rugby Federation’s Player Pathway Programme and seven from the Shaheen side, with one player each from Abu Dhabi Harlequins and Dubai Exiles.

2018 ASIAN GAMES RUGBY

Pool A               Pool B               Pool C

Hong Kong        Japan                 Korea

China                 Malaysia            Sri Lanka

Thailand            Chinese Taipei   UAE

Pakistan            Indonesia           Afghanistan

Fixtures:

Thursday, August 30

Sri Lanka v UAE (11:56 KO, UAE time)

UAE v Afghanistan (15:36 UAE)

Friday, August 31

Korea v UAE (12:18 UAE)

UAE squad:

Yousuf Lashkari, Ahmad Al Shehi, Walid Al Balooshi, Ahmed Al Areefi, Saeed Saad, Hassan Al Noobi, Majid Al Balooshi, Abdalla Salmin, Mohammed Al Numaimi, Ali Al Sereidi, Mohammed Al Shamsi, Rashed Al Marzooqi

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Bahrain head to Kandy as Asia Rugby Western Clubs Champions League begins

Matt Jones 29/08/2018
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Bahrain beat Dubai Exiles 47-25 in a thrilling West Asia Cup final.

The new Gulf rugby season begins in earnest this weekend with the return of the Asia Rugby Western Clubs Champions League.

The competition, which has become the traditional curtain-raiser to the rugby season in the UAE and Gulf as a whole, kicks off in Sri Lanka as Kandy host West Asia Cup winners Bahrain on Friday.

Abu Dhabi Harlequins also feature at the mini three-team tournament – receiving an invite after West Asia Premiership champions Jebel Ali Dragons decided against taking part.

It means that the same three teams as last year are taking part, with Mike McFarlane’s Quins looking to defend their crown and lift it for the third season in a row.

This year, all three teams will play once at home, after Bahrain travelled to both Kandy and Abu Dhabi last year to ensure the competition went ahead.

Kandy welcome Louie Tonkin’s Bahrain – who hoisted the West Asia Cup in 2017/18 – on Friday, with Kandy heading to the UAE capital to play Quins at Zayed Sports City next Friday, September 7. The tournament concludes the following Friday, September 14, when Quins travel to Bahrain.

The competition for trophies looks to be wide open in 2018/19 after the major honours were shared between four teams last term – breaking Quins’ utter dominance of the rugby landscape in the Gulf in 2016/17.

Dragons claimed the main Premiership title, while Bahrain won the Cup. Dubai Exiles claimed the Dubai Sevens crown, while the UAE Premiership was also theirs.

Dubai Hurricanes won the West Asia Trophy and Quins lifted the inaugural UAE Premiership Cup and kept the Champions League title.

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