Life will be very different for UAE Premiership new boys Al Ain Amblers this season, both on and off the field.
The Garden City club enjoyed the most successful season in its 31-year history by winning the 2014-15 UAE Conference, finishing in style by going through the campaign unbeaten.
This year the Amblers join the exalted company of UAE heavyweights Dubai Hurricanes, Dubai Exiles, Jebel Ali Dragons, as well as Premiership champions Abu Dhabi Harlequins and West Asia champions Abu Dhabi Saracens.
Ahead of their first foray into the top-tier, there has been sweeping changes made behind the scenes, with new director of rugby Rocco De Bruyn the only committee member remaining from last year.
De Bruyn has already been busy in his new role, overseeing the appointment of new first team coach Andrew Rouvi, who replaces interim head coach Keleto Dyer who had briefly stepped into the void left by the outgoing Peter Aki.
David Tito-Nekeare will be in charge of the club’s second team, Chris Ebbinkhuysen is the new youth team manager and Sean Emmett has replaced Andre Fourie as club chairman. The hugely popular Manu Vilsoni, meanwhile, remains as women's team coach.
The club’s makeover behind the scenes continues with work ongoing on an additional swimming pool due to be completed soon, while the creation of two additional rugby pitches are set to be completed early in the season.
With a third team also set to play in the new third tier Community Shield, the club is expecting numbers for senior men’s players to get close to 100. The woman's team is also expected to grow this year as they go into their second full season.
Amblers’ Premiership debut will see them travel to Dubai Hurricanes on opening day, Friday, September 25.
Wycliff Palu and Matt Giteau were Friday recalled to the Wallabies 31-man squad for next week's Rugby Championship decider against the All Blacks, with uncapped prop Toby Smith also drafted in.
Australia and New Zealand are level on nine points ahead of the August 8 Test in Sydney — effectively a final — and coach Michael Cheika has brought back two of his experienced big guns.
Veteran Giteau returns after being rested from Australia's bonus-point 34-9 victory over Argentina last weekend having taken a physical battering against the Springboks in Brisbane earlier this month.
Powerhouse No.8 Palu was rested from both the opening two Test victories to overcome injury niggles but has been deemed fit to face the All Blacks. A surprise was the call-up of 26-year-old Smith following a consistent Super Rugby campaign for the Melbourne Rebels.
"Toby has had a solid season with the Rebels, and has been working really hard while the group has been away," said Cheika. "Our intention was always to rest Wycliff prior to this camp, and he has come back in great shape and really eager to play."
Cheika added that the squad was starting to come together ahead of the September-October World Cup in England.
"We have been able to look at a few different combinations during the first two rounds of the Rugby Championship and the squad is starting to take shape," he said.
"In addition to the 31 players, we'll be bringing some injured and fringe players into camp to continue their rehabilitation and manage their return to play. It's important that they remain connected and contribute to the group."
Australia squad: Adam Ashley-Cooper, Kurtley Beale, Quade Cooper, Scott Fardy, Israel Folau, Bernard Foley, Matt Giteau, Greg Holmes, Michael Hooper, James Horwill, Sekope Kepu, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Lealiifano, Stephen Moore (captain), Drew Mitchell, Ben McCalman, Sean McMahon, Dean Mumm, Wycliff Palu, Nick Phipps, David Pocock, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Scott Sio, Rob Simmons, Will Skelton, James Slipper, Toby Smith, Henry Speight, Matt Toomua, Joe Tomane, Nic White.
New Dubai Exiles director of rugby Jacques Benade is keen to stress his arrival is for the benefit of the entire club, not just the first team. The 45-year-old arrived in the UAE at the beginning of the month, having enjoyed a 15-year coaching career in Ireland.
The South African coached All-Ireland League side Malone RFC before moving on to Ballymena where he learnt from former British & Irish Lions legends Syd Miller and Willie John McBride.
Exciting times ahead as Dubai Exiles welcomes their new director of rugby Jacques Benade to the club. Register now at http://t.co/QBBn88XVph
— Dubai Exiles RFC (@DubaiExiles) July 24, 2015
Benade has come to Exiles with the aim of reversing the fortunes of the UAE’s most historic club, which has fallen on hard times in recent seasons. But despite his ultimate mission, Benade is at pains to point out his role as director of rugby encompasses far more than just the senior side.
“I’m meeting Toby Shore soon, the chairman of the mini and youth committee, and there is a lot of work I’d like to help out with there to grow that further,” he said.
“They’re doing excellent work there and I’m sure it is one of the best youth set-ups in the UAE, especially in Dubai. They had a team travelling to Northern Ireland earlier this year.
“They played against three of the country’s top schools and they competed with them really well. So, the standard of the young teams and the level of coaching here is very good.
“For me to come in and assist there will be magic. If I can come in there and work with the coaches, it will be brilliant for the club.”
Exiles finished fifth in the UAE Premiership last season, failing to qualify for the Gulf Top Six. They excelled in the post-Christmas Gulf Conference where they faced meagre opposition, such as Xodus Wasps, Kuwait and Muscat although.
At the Dubai Sevens, they made the quarter-finals of the Gulf Men’s League Trophy competition before being blown away 38-0 by champions Abu Dhabi Harlequins.