This week Matt Jones profiles Dubai Sharks full-back Alan Robertson.
Height: 5’ 11’’ / 1.55m
Weight: 12st 5lbs / 80kg
Birthplace: Aberdeen, Scotland
Years in UAE: Four
Honours: Surviving a Dubai Sharks social night out
Favourite childhood memory of rugby: Captaining a very young Abu Dhabi Bats side at one of the early Dubai 7’s, and accepting a medal from John Jeffrey, aka the Great White Shark.
Favourite player growing up: Gregor Townsend. During the 1990 Five Nations he scored a try against every nation. He’s doing very well as head coach of Glasgow Warriors. Give him the Scotland job.
Rugby team you support: Scotland and Edinburgh
Best international player at the moment and why: Ben Smith. He is a true attacking weapon, could play anywhere across the back line.
Rule you would change and why: Where a defending scrum-half can stand at a scrum. In my view they should stand at the rear foot of their own scrum, therefore not disrupting the attaching scum half. This would allow attacking scrum halves to give more clean balls from scrums and more exciting play.
Best game you ever saw: Probably the 2010 Six Nations Wales v Scotland game. Although we eventually lost, it was one of the most intense and entertaining games I’ve seen.
Toughest opponent in UAE: Al Ain Amblers and their Fijian flyers
Funniest moment in your career: While playing at Jebel Ali, I received a pass about five metres out and dived for the try line. After celebrating from the bottom of the ruck I realised I had dived for the wrong line (it was the soccer lines).
Greatest achievement in any sport: Please… too many to list
If you could be a professional in any other sport what it would be and why? MotoGP rider. I’ve always loved motorcycles and currently have a Yamaha R6. Favourite meal: Stovies at 3am in Aberdeen (Google it!)
Favourite place in the UAE: McGettigans of course
Murray Strang says losing their UAE Premiership and Dubai Rugby Sevens crowns have been the “wake up call” the Jebel Ali Dragons needed.
The Scottish player/coach admits Dragons might well have lost their hunger after back-to-back trebles, but he insists the all-conquering Dubai outfit will be back in the new year to breathe fire into the season and retain their status as reigning Gulf Top Six champions.
“Perhaps we lost that hunger, which is inevitable when you win six trophies out of six, but that hunger is certainly back after losing the Premiership and Sevens titles this year,” said Strang.
“In the UAE, there’s quite a high turnover of rugby players, so there are not many Dragons who have experienced losing. So playing two competitions this season and having no trophies has been a shock for some,” he added.
“We’ve lost two but we’re determined to keep hold of our Gulf Top Six crown.
“It’s the main one to win as it’s the last competition, so it sticks in the memory. It’s important to finish the season on top.”
The Gulf Top Six kicks off on January 9 and Strang is challenging his Dragons’ players to come back stronger in the new year, although he doesn’t feel there is a need for sweeping change.
“I hope a lot of people are ready to come back in the new year and get to work. I don’t think it’s been down to a lack of effort or bad attitude, I think we just need a bit of tinkering.
“We’re not a million miles away and if we can get back into the zone, I think we can get back on top.”
Strang’s attitude was echoed by fellow coach Mike Lewis, who puts the changing of the tide down to the competition in the UAE getting stronger rather than the Dragons becoming weaker.
“We’ve lost our UAE Premiership and Dubai Sevens crowns but the first part of the season doesn’t determine a season,” said the Welshman.
“I don’t think we’ve lost out, in fact I think the other clubs have stepped up. The playing field is more level this season, which is fantastic for rugby in the UAE.
“It’s now down to us to step up to the mark too, figure out a way to move forward and defend our Gulf Top Six title.”
While losing is a new experience for Dragons, Lewis says Jebel Ali’s world is not “falling apart”.
“We’re not despondent about it, we’re actually upbeat,” said Lewis.
“The world’s not falling apart, we’re not panicking. We’re learning lessons and it’s just a case of reassessment.”
Ed Lewsey is a member of the Abu Dhabi Harlequins team and has represented Wales at U18 and U19 level.
Team: Abu Dhabi Harlequins
Birthplace: Kent, England
Years in UAE: Three-and-a-half years
Honours: Wales U18s, U19s, and students
Favourite childhood memory of rugby: Caked in mud on Sunday mornings and climbing into a filthy communal bath, or watching David Campese score for the Wallabies v Barbarians at Cardiff Arms Park with my father
Favourite player growing up: Rob Howley
Rugby team you support: Wales
Best international player at the moment and why: Bismarck du Plessis – brutal and skillful in equal measure. Anyone sharing a name with a warship is pretty cool
Rule you would change and why: I would merge the codes into one global game of rugby
Best game you ever saw: Difficult one. Either France v NZ World Cup semi 1999, or Wales v England also 1999 – Scott Gibbs’ famous try at Wembley – incredible to be there
Toughest opponent in UAE: Still Paul Hart from Jebel Ali Dragons – great competitive attitude and he is almost as old as me
Funniest moment in your career: In hindsight, having my shorts pulled down v Northampton, whilst kicking. I missed the ball and they scored. We lost the game though, so I was not laughing at the time
Greatest achievement in any sport: Playing for Wales at junior level. The Junior World Cup in 1998 down in Toulouse was great fun
If you could be a professional in any other sport what it would be and why: Cricket – Kumar Sangakkara is one of my heroes. You don’t need to be super, super fit and your career lasts a long time
Favourite meal: Roast lamb or a Portuguese dish called Bacalao con natas
Favourite place in the UAE: Fujairah