New UAE Rugby's Premiership Cup mired in controversy

Matt Jones 12:02 09/02/2018
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Dubai Hurricanes coach Mike Wernham believes the new UAE Premiership Cup competition would have been more appealing had it been styled on football’s famed FA Cup, where elite and lower league teams are pitted against one another and upsets are possible.

The competition – debuted this season by the UAE Rugby Federation – has been dogged by controversy so far, with only one of the four ties having gone ahead successfully.

That was Canes’ victory over Abu Dhabi Saracens in early December. Dubai Exiles were given a bye at what was essentially the quarter-final stage – Abu Dhabi Harlequins and Jebel Ali Dragons were given byes to the semi-finals for finishing first and second in the UAE Premiership last season – when Dubai Eagles forfeited.

Exiles were given another bye this week – to the final – when Dragons opted out of their fixture, supposed to be played Friday, at the start of the week, much to the annoyance of Exiles.

Quins and Canes, scheduled to play on Friday, will now count the cup game as a double header when they face each other in the West Asia Premiership next Friday.

And Wernham feels the competition should have been opened up to UAE Conference teams in a bid to gauge more interest and give smaller sides the opportunity to cause a giant-killing.

“My suggestion at the AGM was a tournament for both Conference and Premiership, like the FA Cup,” said Wernham.

“Unfortunately, this wasn’t taken and it was only made a Premiership thing which wasn’t really needed. We train so hard and so long we just need more teams to step up and having an FA Cup-style tournament might lead to a few shocks which might give teams in Conference the confidence to go for it.

“Even our second team versus first team games can be incredibly competitive which would be a great opportunity for a lot of guys in house to put their hands up in a real competitive setting.”

Dragons bemoaned an unnecessary glut of trophies to play for, with the club stating their priorities are the West Asia Premiership, UAE Premiership and West Asia Cup.

And Quins coach Mike McFarlane feels the troubled debut for the competition bodes badly for its future.

He said: “I like cup competition. Especially in such a competitive league and it gives all teams who may be having a tough season to win something.

“However, it doesn’t help if forfeits see a team go all the way to the final on byes. It loses its value and significance as winning a trophy.”

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