Heavyweights Doha face a trip into the unknown Friday as they travel to new entrants Al Ain Amblers for their opening West Asia Championship assignment.
The Qataris head into this year’s event as one of the favourites. They finished top of the 2015 Gulf Top Six (GT6) league table, were narrowly beaten in the West Asia Cup final by Abu Dhabi Saracens and won all seven matches on their way to the recent Gulf Premiership title.
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The Amblers sit bottom of the incomplete UAE Premiership after a tough start to life in the top flight. But Doha boss Aaron Palmer was taking nothing for granted.
He said: “To be fair, I am not too sure what to expect from Al Ain. We have never played them before as a first team.
“Looking at their results during the UAE Premiership, they are coming up. They haven’t had the greatest of results, so we are confident as reigning Gulf Top 6 champions. We are searching for the win. That said, we are playing up at Al Ain where it is never easy.
“We are expecting a very tough game.”
Doha edged out Sarries in the GT6 and suffered a heartbreaking 26-20 loss to them on home soil in the West Asia decider in March.
Palmer insisted he was operating with a clean slate rather than dwelling on the past. He said: “That could be a motivating factor, but we haven’t played on it at all. That was last year.
“We have a totally different squad now because of the transient communities out here. We won the Gulf Top 6 league and lost the final.
“That was a totally different competition.”
The main factor which could damage Doha this weekend is the difficulties of travel within the Middle East, with visa problems often impacting squad selection.
“The unknown is a big factor for us,” Palmer said. “We do not have any intelligence on Al Ain.
“We know they are passionate at home and will have a stronger squad, than if they were away. It isn’t a worry but we have highlighted those facts in our preparation.”
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