Abu Dhabi Harlequins expecting fast start in Muscat

Matt Jones - Editor 09:41 21/01/2016
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David v Goliath: Abu Dhabi are hot favourites against Muscat, who have lost heavily twice.

They may be playing a team that has hemorrhaged 201 points in just two games, but that’s not the only reason Abu Dhabi Harlequins are looking forward to tomorrow’s trip to Muscat.

Quins have been left without a fixture for the first two rounds of matches after they and Jebel Ali Dragons agreed to postpone their opening day appointment, while last week was Quins’ bye week in the nine-team competition.
Coach Mike McFarlane admitted it’s been difficult to be left on the sidelines but says there is extra motivation now a return to competitive rugby is upon them. “We’re looking forward to being back on the pitch, it’s been way too long,” said McFarlane.
“You can work and train all you want on the training field without getting the minutes on the paddock under the belt, but ultimately that is where you get the results and do the work. The boys can’t wait to get the season rolling again and continue where we left off.”
Where they left off before the 15s season took a break for the sevens campaign was at the top of the UAE Premiership and, having retained their Gulf Men’s League title at the Dubai Sevens in between, Quins are aiming for a trio of trophies.
“We want to get back to winning ways,” said McFarlane. “Winning is a habit and the boys can’t wait to get back to action.”
Even though a lot of players kept in shape via the shortened format of the game, McFarlane has been impressed with the commitment to fitness of his forward pack, many of whom did not feature.
“It would have been easy for them to indulge over Christmas,” added McFarlane. “But they’ve been training really hard and have kept themselves in good knick.”
Quins are without Max Trimble who is sidelined with a hamstring injury, prop James McAuley (back), plus absentees Carl Knox and Luke Stevenson. Former Abu Dhabi Saracens centre Pieter Morton is nearing a return to action but remains a few weeks away.
After two painful weeks on the road, Muscat are at least looking forward to a home fixture.
“We are feeling optimistic,” said vice captain Karl Rasmussen, whose side were pummeled 146-5 on the opening day at Dubai Exiles before being beaten 55-5 by Dubai Hurricanes a week later.
“Harlequins are a strong team but we are hoping that with a few injuries, the travel and the fact that they haven’t played this year will work in our favour.”
Doha v Dubai Hurricanes
Dubai Hurricanes face the daunting task of travelling to Qatar to try and dismantle Doha, but head coach James Ham believes his side are capable of causing an upset.
Doha have two wins from two and will be hard to beat at home, but Ham says he and his men will not be flying out to make up the numbers, even though he believes the reigning Gulf Top Six champions are even stronger than last season.
“Doha is always a tough place to travel and they are proving to be even stronger and well drilled this season,” said Ham.
“As is always the case, we have a few players unable to travel, the exact number still to be finalised, but we will be taking a squad that are looking to cause an upset.”
For Aaron Palmer and his side, they return home after coming away from daunting Al Ghazal last week having inflicted a second- straight home defeat on Abu Dhabi Saracens.
“It will be good to get back home and play in front of our parochial crowd,” said Palmer. “Hurricanes will be a good side so we have been training all week with a plan in mind to utilise our strengths.”
Bahrain v Jebel Ali Dragons
Jebel Ali Dragons are also on the road and looking to build on a 54-24 win over  Al Ain when they head to Bahrain.
“After a fantastic win last week we are really looking to build some momentum,” said director of rugby, Paul Hart.
This Friday will be a tricky trip as we are only able to select 50 per cent of last week’s squad due to injuries and other players not available. This is a real shame, but we are still determined to push for a great away win.”
Bahrain team manager Ian Davies said his squad are confident despite being brought back down to earth last week by Dubai Exiles.
“The boys are in a great frame of mind and, having lost due to poor discipline last week, are
determined to take commitment one step further this week,” he said.

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