Having made the UAE and the Gulf sit up and take notice last season, for Abu Dhabi Saracens the new campaign is all about taking the next step.
Only formed in 2011, the Sarries suddenly burst onto the scene in 2014-15 by beating Doha to win the West Asia Cup.
Now recognised as a force domestically and further afield, the men from Al Ghazal are determined to pick up a first trophy of the season by winning the inaugural Asia Rugby Western Clubs Champions League.
They face a familiar foe in their opening fixture on Friday, taking on Doha in Qatar, returning to the scene of their greatest triumph.
“They will more than likely be looking for a bit of revenge but we’ve had a fantastic pre-season, and for us it’s about taking the next step,” said Sarries’ joint head coach Stephen Hamilton.
“We have some new faces but also continuity with boys that have been here for some time and we’re looking to get more of an understanding of our strengths and gauge our tactics to see how they work and how we want to play this season.”
Nearly six months have passed since they defeated Doha 26-20 in an enthralling West Asia Cup final, with Rhuwane Pienaar’s crucial late try sealing a landmark victory and capping a fine season for Ali Thompson and his men.
The Scotsman has since left, as has South African scrum-half Pienaar and most notably countryman Pieter Morton, who has joined Abu Dhabi rivals Harlequins.
The core of last season’s squad remains though, Hamilton determined to start the new era as promisingly as the previous one ended.
“We want a positive start,” said Hamilton. “We’re very proud to be part of the competition, but it is a long season. However, we wouldn’t go into a tournament not looking to win. We have three games and we’re looking for three wins.
— Sport360° (@Sport360) August 10, 2015
“We want to re-inforce our positive pre-season with confident and accurate performances and we’re confident we can rival any team.”
After Sarries and Doha lock horns, Sri Lankan champions Kandy play Kazakhstan’s top team Olymp at 7he Sevens in Dubai on Saturday.
Doha will host Olymp next Tuesday while Sarries welcome Kandy to Al Ghazal. Sarries against Olymp and Doha against Kandy will both be played at 7he Sevens next Friday, September 18, the winners earning the right to call themselves the champion club in West Asia.
Tickets for arguably the most popular sporting event in the Middle East, the Dubai Rugby Sevens, will be on sale from 30th September 2015.
– RWC15: Broken down by numbers
– RWC15: In depth team-by-team guide
– Dubai Sevens: Tournament set to break records
The three-day rugby festival featuring the world's best rugby sevens players will take place on 3-5 December at The Sevens Stadium and is set to be another action-packed event.
Thursday 3 December – FREE ADMISSION
Friday 4 December – in advance AED300, on the day AED400
Saturday 5 December – in advance AED300, on the day AED400
Season Tickets (Friday and Saturday) – in advance AED500, on the day AED600
Children under 12 receive free admission.
For more information on the tournament or to purchase tickets please visit the website.
Chris Robshaw reflects on Danny Cipriani omission from England Rugby World Cup squad