Sharjah Wanderers announce their shock withdrawal from 2018/19 UAE Conference

Matt Jones 12/09/2018
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Sharjah players celebrate their UAE Conference success in 2015/16.

The rise and fall nature of the UAE rugby landscape has continued with Sharjah Wanderers announcing their withdrawal from the UAE Conference.

The club – one of the Emirates’ oldest who established roots in the late 1970s – announced via their Twitter and Instagram accounts on Wednesday that they had taken the “tough call” with a little over a week to go until the start of the 2018/19 season.

It’s a sad state of affairs for a club that celebrated their 40th anniversary in 2017, with chairman Shane Breen revealing the club had lost half of its players from last season over the summer.

Their withdrawal follows Dubai Wasps’ decision to fold on the eve of the 2017/18 season.

Wanderers returned to pre-season training on August 28 and had been scheduled to kick off the new term at home to Dubai Sharks next Friday, September 21.

But they will now drop out, in the hope of being able to rebuild and return next year.

“It’s not been the best day,” admitted a distraught Breen, a Northern Irishman who was born in the UAE and spent his whole life at the club.

“It was a really tough call to make but we had to be honest with ourselves. At the end of last season, we lost over half the squad, mostly due to guys relocating or taking some time away from to focus on other things.

“Every season we would typically see 10-15 new guys joining up but that’s just not happened this year. We’ve had some new boys come along but unfortunately not enough.

“Unfortunately, the Community League wasn’t an option for us either.”

Despite making the call, Breen insists Wanderers will hope to regroup next season and he said the club’s other thriving teams will continue to flourish. The famous red and black of Wanderers will still make appearances at the Dubai Sevens and various other tournaments throughout the campaign.

“The boys are all still committed Wanderers and we’ll do our best to rebuild this year and be back next season,” said a defiant Breen.

“Our ladies are still going strong though and the men’s team as well as the vets and ladies will be in the sevens this year which will be our focus for the next few months.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Wanderers released statements across their social media platforms announcing the news.

“SWRFC are sad to announce that the Men’s XV have had to make the heartbreaking decision to withdraw from this years’ UAE Conference,” read the statement.

Wanderers celebrate their incredible 2015/16 campaign.

Wanderers celebrate their incredible 2015/16 campaign.

“Declining player numbers have taken its toll on the team and the squad no longer has the numbers to compete in this year’s competition.

“We’d like to thank all our members and sponsors for their continued support as we look to stage our comeback next season. This isn’t the last you’ll see of the Wandies men’s team who’ll still be competing in the Dubai Sevens and other social competitions throughout the year.”

Wanderers have been around for almost as long as the UAE has been an independent nation – with only Dubai Exiles and Abu Dhabi Bats (now Harlequins) older.

The club has enjoyed much success in recent years too. Nic Walters led the club to a thrilling UAE Conference title win two years ago – beating Jebel Ali Dragons 2nds in the final play of the game of the 2015/16 final.

After deciding against promotion to the top-flight of UAE rugby, Sharjah struggled a year later before returning to prominence last season as they reached the Conference final yet again, this time on the losing side of some late drama as Dubai Tigers’ sudden death try earned a 25-20 win.

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Sale's director of Rugby Steve Diamond believes Premiership is most competitive yet

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during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Sale Sharks and Worcester Warriors at the AJ Bell Stadium on September 9, 2018 in Salford, United Kingdom.

Sale’s director of Rugby Steve Diamond believes the current Gallagher Premiership season is one of the most competitive yet.

The Sharks defeated Worcester 21-15 on Sunday but had to withstand an onslaught from the visitors in the second period.

Worcester are favourites for the drop this season but have shown that they can mix it with the other teams in England’s top-tier following two narrow losses.

“At half-time we weren’t swinging from the chandelier in the changing room,” said Diamond.

“We just said ‘we’ve started well, let’s make sure we put this game to bed but, if we play like we played, we’ll convert’. What Worcester did at half-time was get their a*** into gear.

“That’s how competitive it is. We made a mistake last week going to Harlequins and underestimating them and got put back on the coach with tears in our eyes, it was that embarrassing – that won’t happen again.

“With Bristol coming up and showing their resolve, the competition’s at a different level.”

Despite struggling in the second half against the Warriors, Diamond believes that they will improve once some of their star players return.

Rohan Janse van Rensburg, James O’Connor, Chris Ashton and Faf de Klerk are all currently out of action, although the latter could return sooner than expected.

De Klerk is currently with the South African national team, who are playing in the Rugby Championship, but may be back early according to the director of Rugby.

“Hopefully (he’s coming back early), that’s all I can say,” he added. “I’ve not got anything concrete but rumour is that he might be coming back earlier.

“We’ve got to weather the storm. We’ve got Van Rensburg unavailable, Ashton unavailable and O’Connor on the way back in the next three or four weeks, so we will be a totally different outfit when those lads are playing.

“We’re putting a squad together, although it might take us a bit longer than I originally thought. We don’t want to be a Blackburn Rovers of 1995 where we’re up and then down, we want to be consistent.”

Worcester boss Alan Solomons was annoyed at his team’s performance in the opening period, but the South African thought that the pressure they exerted on the stroke of half-time changed the course of the game.

Solomons said: “In a funny way, although full marks to their defence when they held us out for 38 phases, for the first time they had to work really hard.

“We held onto the ball, which we hadn’t done, and we took that into the second half. I thought that we then had our opportunities to close out the game, particularly at the end.

“Right in the beginning…there were not a massive amount of errors and they were small errors, but the consequence is that they score points from them and also end up getting field position. That was the problem.”

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England prop Joe Marler opens up about 2016 "gypsy boy" episode

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England prop Joe Marler says speaking openly with close friends enabled him to overcome the 2016 “gypsy boy” episode which tarnished his career.

The 28-year-old, who has 59 England caps, was speaking as Harlequins joined the Movember Foundation to launch a ‘Be a Man of More Words’ campaign, raising awareness for World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10.

Marler was joined in a video by Quins team-mates Dave Ward, Danny Care and Mark Lambert in speaking openly about their personal experiences, with Marler reflecting on the March 2016 incident where he insulted Wales’ Samson Lee by calling him a “gypsy boy”.

“It hasn’t always been easy,” Marler said.

“My personality is I can be very outgoing, very happy, sociable, but then I can quite easily buckle under pressure, get quite low and spiral.

“I’m now in a place where I’m far more in control of my day-to-day outlook on things.

“A huge part of that was being able to talk to my friends. They’ve enabled me to be in a position now where I’m capable of coping with that.”

Marler apologised for the incident in England’s 25-21 win at Twickenham, while Lee’s interpretation was that the comments were intended as banter, rather than malicious.

The England prop was banned for two weeks and fined £20,000 after World Rugby intervened in a disciplinary case which had initially seen Marler cleared by a Six Nations panel.

The subsequent fallout and a further ban for kicking Grenoble hooker Arnaud Heguy in the head saw Marler opt out of the June 2016 tour to Australia with the blessing of England head coach Eddie Jones.

Marler responded by playing the best rugby of his career, earning a place on the 2017 British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand, although he served eight weeks’ worth of bans last season, missing England’s first two Six Nations matches.

Marler added: “I spent a huge amount of that time discussing things with my wife, trying to get through that, but also my close friends around me about the problems I was experiencing at the time and how I was going to get through it and move forward.

“For me, without those guys that I was able to talk to, I wouldn’t have been able to get through those tough points in my career and in my life.”

Fatherhood has given Danny Care more perspective.

Fatherhood has given Danny Care more perspective.

Care spoke how fatherhood had changed him. The scrum-half was reprimanded by then England head coach Stuart Lancaster following his December 2011 arrest for a late night incident.

“Becoming a dad, for me just put everything in perspective,” Care said.

“Everything changed for me, my whole outlook on how I was as a person. I wasn’t a bad person, but I made a few bad decisions. For me the main realisation was someone is going to be dependent on me and I want to make that person proud and do best by my child.

“Now all my decisions I make I put my family first. That’s the biggest thing for me. Being a father you have to put other people first.”

The Movember Foundation, Harlequins Foundation and Harlequins join forces to ‘Stop Men Dying too Young’. For more information head to: www.movember.com

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