Despite Qatar boycott, Doha's Alex Natera is preparing his side for new season

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Their future remains uncertain, but Doha coach Alex Natera insists his troops will be working hard when pre-season begins early next month.

Due to the severing of political ties between several Gulf nations and Qatar in June, Doha had been expected to be left out in the wilderness in 2017/18.

They were ousted from the region’s premier rugby competition, the West Asia Premiership, when the UAE Rugby Federation sent out an initial calendar of domestic competition dates via email at the beginning of July.

Asia Rugby have since confirmed that Doha could be allowed to participate if their fixtures are played at a neutral venue, most likely Muscat, a move that has been met by mixed reactions in the Emirates.

Whatever the future holds, head coach Natera insists his men will be playing rugby next season.

“All I know is we start pre-season on August 7 and I just want my boys focused on getting fit and preparing to play good rugby this season,” said Natera.

“We will be playing rugby that’s for sure. We’d love to be playing Bahrain and the top UAE teams but if politics gets in the way of that, this season we’ll still play rugby and that’s the most important thing.

“All that’s on my mind right now is that from the 7th I have around eight weeks to get my boys ready to play better than last season – against who and where is not up to me.”

Just as UAE clubs are skeptical as to Doha’s inclusion in the Premiership next season, Natera doesn’t feel playing in Muscat will be beneficial to the club.

“There was a suggestion to hold our away games in Muscat and keep our home games as they are,” he added.

“The club would lose far too much revenue to not host our home games. I can’t see Muscat being an option to be honest. I’ve heard loads of different options but nothing is anywhere near concrete yet.

“I’ve heard we might join the Sri Lankan league and I’ve heard we may drop down to the Conference and miss the two or so games that we can’t travel to. I’ve heard we may pick up friendly matches throughout the season with Lebanon, Jordan and Sri Lankan teams. Who knows.”

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Jonathan Davies and Sean O'Brien top our Lions player ratings in New Zealand

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As the dust settles on another Lions series, Chris Bailey assesses the performances of Warren Gatland’s 41-man squad in New Zealand.

What do you make of our ratings?

Have your say by commenting below, using Twitter and getting in touch via Facebook.

Mako Vunipola – 6: No prop gets through more work in the loose than him, but marked down for second Test horrorshow

Jack McGrath – 6: That he could not displace a shaky Vunipola tells you that the Irishman was not at his best.

Joe Marler – 5: A distant third in the pecking order at loosehead. Liable to lose his head

Dan Cole – 6: Performed his job admirably, limited but one of the biggest grafters on tour

Tadhg Furlong – 7:  Not as effective around the park as Vunipola, but kept his side of the scrum solid enough

Tadhg Furlong.

Tadhg Furlong.

Kyle Sinckler – 8: Many were questioning why the England rookie was called up. Not anymore. Destructive finisher

Rory Best – 7: Powers are waning at age of 34 but an impeccable mid-week leader

Ken Owens – 6: Still looks a little lightweight at Test level. Lucky not to cost Lions right at the end.

Jamie George8: If he can start for the Lions, he can start for England. Still room to improve.

Maro Itoje – 8: Was a little overexcited in the second Test, a behemoth in the third. The sky may not be the limit.

Maro Itoje.

Maro Itoje.

Alun Wyn Jones – 7: A mid-tour scapegoat who can now hold his head high. Nine Lions Tests, some going.

Courtney Lawes – 8: Fully over his mid-career slump. Left bruises all over All blacks with his carries.

George Kruis – 6: Unlucky to be second-row fall guy after the first Test. Didn’t take his chance though.

Iain Henderson – 7: Possibly never been a stronger set of Lions locks, the unfortunate victim.

Peter O’Mahony – 6: Led by example all the way up until the first Test, in which he was sadly dominated

Sean O’Brien9: The Tullow Tank, after four years of nearly constant injury, delivered his best form

Sean O'Brien.

Sean O’Brien.

Sam Warburton – 8: Even tour place had been in question, but the skipper came in for second Test and slowed All Blacks ball right down

Justin Tipuric – Solid performer and did not miss a tackle, but Test place blocked by O’Brien and Warburton

James Haskell – Abrasive as always but too often on wrong side of the line in this tour

CJ Stander – Usually a bulldozer in an Ireland shirt, at best a mini-van for the Lions

Ross Moriarty – 5 Highly promising start to tour cruelly ended by a back injury early on

Taulupe Faletau – 8: One of the big winners, stopped most talking about the injured Billy Vunipola

Taulupe Faletau.

Taulupe Faletau.

BACKS

Rhys Webb – 7: Best compliment you can pay to him is that no one would have been worried if he started Tests

Conor Murray – 8 Expert box kicker and deadly sniper, his duels with fellow No9 Aaron Smith were a highlight

Greig Laidlaw – 5 Late call-up and looked one or two classes apart from master scrum-halves Webb and Murray

Dan Biggar – 8: Could do nothing more to prove himself in tour games, but Sexton and Farrell were immovable

Jonathan Sexton – 8: Gatland put his faith in the Irishman when most others had lost theirs. Brought edge to attack.

Jonathan Sexton.

Jonathan Sexton.

Owen Farrell – 7: Did not see vintage Farrell yet generally linked with Sexton well and grew into his kicking boots

Ben T’eo – 7: Lung-busting breaks caught the eye but ultimately his ball skills were not up to scratch at inside centre

Jonathan Davies – 9: Named Lions’ player of the tour and deservedly so. Gave every ounce of energy for the cause

Jonathan Davies.

Jonathan Davies.

Jonathan Joseph – 6: Had no chance up against the in-form Davies at No13 and was not a standout regardless

Robbie Henshaw – 5: Touted to make Test impact before tour, but disappointing summer ended in injury

Jared Payne – 5: Weighed down by injuries and is currently under observation for spate of migraines

Elliot Daly – 8: Is wing his position? Maybe not – but he makes things happen. Humongous boot a real boon for the Lions

Tommy Seymour – 6: Started slowly and that counted against him, but finished Lions’ top try-scorer

Anthony Watson – 8: A shame that play was often narrow and Lions did not make more use of his dancing feet

Anthony Watson.

Anthony Watson.

George North – 5: Looked almost lethargic at times and his best could already be behind him at age of 25

Jack Nowell – 7: Very shaky in tour opener v Blues, but grew in stature and gained Test bench spot   

Liam Williams – 7: Sparked one of Test rugby’s great tries in the first All Blacks clash, unsure under high ball

Leigh Halfpenny – 6: Never the most electric of backs, but has regressed since 2013. Still one of world’s best kickers.

Stuart Hogg – 5: Conor Murray’s elbow will haunt him for years to come. Scarcely been an unluckier injury.

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Sam Warburton left speechless after All Blacks and Lions draw 15-15 to finish series tied

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British and Irish Lions skipper Sam Warburton was left speechless after a 15-15 draw with New Zealand in Auckland meant the Test series was tied.

The tourists headed into the Eden Park clash knowing they could become the first Lions side to win a Test series in New Zealand since 1971.

But, having trailed 12-6 at half-time, the Lions were reliant on a 78th-minute penalty from Owen Farrell to secure a 1-1 draw across the three matches.

Warburton told Sky Sports: “It is a difficult one, it has got to be a first. It is difficult as players, if you go through the pressure and the emotion of the week, it is all geared towards winning.

“But, I guess, it is better than losing. We didn’t lose the series. To be honest, I am a bit speechless, I don’t know what to make of that. I was ready to go into extra-time! My legs weren’t, they are cramping up everywhere.

“To come to the double world champs, what they have done over the last six to eight years was incredible, so to come here and not get beaten, we can take some credit for that.

“We can take some positives from a draw but, as players, we are gutted not to take that win.”

New Zealand’s fly-half Beauden Barrett (C) looks on after the third Test

New Zealand captain Kieran Read, playing his 100th Test, echoed Warburton’s thoughts following the draw.

“I feel pretty hollow, to be honest,” Read said.

“When you walk away with a draw, it doesn’t really mean much. I will probably look at it in the future with a bit more pride.”

Maro Itoje, one of the Lions’ stars of the tour, was a little disappointed not to condemn the All Blacks to back-to-back home defeats for the first time since 1998.

“We are a little bit unsatisfied, we came here to win but we didn’t quite do that,” he said.

“I don’t think we played that perfect game. But New Zealand are a top team. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t what we wanted. Life goes on.”

Despite the result, Itoje was proud of his efforts.

“I am incredibly honoured and proud to be part of this team,” he added.

“One of the best six or seven weeks of my life. To wear this red jersey is a dream come true for me. I can’t read the future but I am definitely going to try (to play for Lions again).”

Maro Itoje of the Lions wins lineout ball

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