Abu Dhabi Saracens have shown their determination to be in fighting shape when the UAE Premiership starts by enlisting dedicated fitness professionals for the first time to put on a gruelling pre-season schedule.
The capital side enjoyed a breakthrough campaign last time out, making their debut in the elite Gulf Top Six competition Despite taking massive strides, Sarries finished bottom of the table after winning only two games, with a lack of stamina one of their main weaknesses.
The club have moved to end this problem, by seeking the help of CrossFit Yas by Vogue Fitness to work the players hard when they return to training on June 23.
“We were the least fit team in the Gulf Top Six last season,” Saracens vice-chairman Jaques Barnard told Sport360°. “This will add massively to our team for next season’s challenges.
“In all the games we played, we were in the ones we lost for the first 60 minutes but then we ran out of gas because we were unfit.
“We have targeted this as a big area in which we can improve. CrossFit Yas by Vogue Fitness will get us in shape during a tough preseason, and then hopefully stay on as consultants when the action properly starts.
“Abu Dhabi Saracens are always looking to innovate, and this is yet another example of that approach.”
CrossFit Yas by Vogue Fitness are a health and fitness company, who are preparing to open an exciting new gym and crossfit facility at Yas Marina.
They will be using a wide variety of interesting fitness programs with Saracens, broken into two five-week blocks.
The opening part will be purely about conditioning, with intensive sessions being carried out at the CrossFit gym and Saracens’ Al Ghazal ground.
The second period will be closely interlinked with traditional rugby coaching, combining fitness and sporting skills ahead of the UAE Premiership beginning in October.
The club also hope to make an announcement soon on the makeup of their coaching staff for the season ahead.
Abu Dhabi Harlequins have signed a “lucrative” new three-year extension to their sponsorship deal with Etihad Airways.
There had been question marks about the arrangement after the carrier ended their seven-year association with Harlequins, the London-based professional side the Emirates club are affiliated with.
The agreement – which extends an eight-year partnership which has seen Etihad involved with Abu Dhabi Quins in varying capacities – ensures that Etihad will continue to be main sponsors of Jeremy Manning’s team, with the company name emblazoned on all senior and junior kits.
It also safeguards the immediate future of the Etihad Airways Junior Rugby Festival, an annual event featuring more than 2,000 local and international children.
Speaking to Sport360°, chairman Andy Cole was thrilled with the announcement which will see the Zayed Sports City team earn an increasing figure each year.
He said: “Etihad have been on the front of our shirts since 2012, andwe are very pleased to do this deal. We have been in negotiations for two to three months.
“We had been worried when we heard about the end of their agreement with London’s Quins.
“It is a lucrative deal, and very important. The problem for clubs over here is that we are all amateur.
“We will be spending Dh100,000 on medical provisions alone next season, so these kind of sponsorship deals are essential.”
Elsewhere, the link-up between the two clubs has been further strengthened after Will Skinner was named by the London side as an ambassador for rugby.
The former flanker, who retired in 2013 after a seven-year spell at Twickenham Stoop, has been tasked with developing the relationships between all Quins-affiliated sides.
The 30-year-old travelled to Abu Dhabi a number of times last season, since being in regular contact with Cole about the make-up of his club – which boasts 1,000 members – and how it is run.
Quins have also been given 150 shirts by the Premiership outfit to give away.
“At the moment we are talking about co-ordination between the two clubs – what we can further offer them and what they further offer us,” Cole said.
Quins have also agreed to strengthen their links with British School Al Khubairat, and will be welcoming the head and deputy head boys from top British fee-paying school, Sedbergh, to the UAE for a working gap year in August.
Manning gets staff boost next season
Abu Dhabi Harlequins are planning to extend their run as the capital’s premier rugby side next season by increasing the number of coaches working under leader Jeremy Manning, 28.
Manning, excelled as player-coach last term, guiding his side to the top of the Gulf Top Six table before losing to Jebel Ali Dragons in the ARFu West Asia Champion Club final.
Quins have refused to rest on their laurels, announcing a new set-up in which Manning will now work with three assistant coaches.
They are also in the process of further bolstering this figure, to include a total of six coaches guiding the men’s and women’s senior sides.
“Last year with two coaches they couldn’t cope,” chairman Andy Cole told Sport360°. “We will now be able to provide more expert coaching to our seniors.”
The UAE sevens team has been set the target of finishing in the top eight at both the Asian Sevens Series and the 2014 Asian Games.
Roloef Kotze’s side enjoyed some success as they returned from the Milan Sevens at the end of last month with silverware.
Following on from an appearance at the Amsterdam Sevens, the tournament in Italy was the second step in the team’s preparation for their debut at September’s Asian Games in Incheon.
They will play in three legs of the Asian Sevens Series – in Hong Kong, Malaysia and Shanghai – prior to their trip as wildcards to South Korea.
But UAE Rugby Federation (UAERF) secretary general, Qais Al Dhalai, is eyeing progress in this campaign.
“As a Federation we are not going [to Korea] to get a medal, we are going there to make a proud appearance as the first ever rugby team to represent the UAE at the Asian Games. We will do our best to come eighth or seventh,” he said.
“Even being invited as a wildcard, one of our aims is to finish the Asian Sevens Series seventh or eighth.”
There will be no rest for the UAE after Korea, with a two-legged Asian Sevens Development Series to take place in Dubai and Mumbai in October and November, which will double as a pre-qualifier for the 2016 Olympics.
Meanwhile, Al Dhalai believes the 15-a-side national team’s relegation to Division II of the Asian 5 Nations will give them the chance to rebuild and become stronger.
“Fifteen-a-side is not a concern because our aim is to rebuild and reconstruct the team again and have a younger team,” he said.
The UAE will play in Division II next year with Malaysia, Thailand and Chinese Taipei. They have been denied a first meeting with Qatar as they are not a full IRB member and therefore unable to compete in what will serve as a qualifier for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.