It may appear to be casual, amateur, community rugby, but Andy Cole revealed a painstaking scouring of the globe was undertaken in order to find Abu Dhabi Harlequins’ new director of rugby.
The club had contact with coaches in the United States, Argentina and even New Zealand before finding a permanent replacement for Mike McFarlane, who left midway through last season and was replaced as senior men’s coach by players Craig Nutt and Luke Stevenson as well as Rory Greene on a temporary basis.
Niall Lear is the man tasked with replacing McFarlane full time, with the former Connacht A, Scottish Schools and Scotland Under-18 international throwing himself into his new role just hours after landing in the UAE.
Lear took his first coaching session at Zayed Sports City on Tuesday evening, roughly 12 hours after landing in the UAE capital to start his new life with his young family.
And despite – to the casual observer – the idea that UAE rugby is just a handful of happy-go-lucky expats playing outside of work hours, Quins chairman Cole described the recruitment process as “a nightmare”.
“We’re delighted we’ve got Niall over,” said Cole.
“It’s been a nightmare trying to find someone, it really has. I’ve been interviewing people in the US, Argentina, New Zealand, all over the place.
“It wasn’t easy to find someone to fit in doing the seniors and the juniors, that’s been the challenge. You can find someone good at one or the other, but not able to do both. It’s quite a big ask when you’ve got close to 800 playing members. It’s a big challenge.
“But this guy has got a good pedigree of rugby and has worked in good sporting schools and military schools.
“He’s got that ability to work with kids and he’s got a young family too, his wife has just given birth. For them it’s a long term plan so it will be good for them too. I’m sure he’ll fit in well, he’s got a great personality.”
Previously based in Edinburgh, Lear was house master and rugby coach for the city’s internationally renowned Merchiston Castle School – current Scotland international Fraser Brown is a former pupil.
Lear spent three years there and was previously in the same role at the Queen Victoria Military School in Dunblane.
Lear’s playing achievements include representing Connacht A from 2008- 09. He attended Loughborough University and represented Scottish Schools, Scotland U18s and was part of the Scotland Sevens training squad in 2006/07.
He also represented Rosslyn Park, Glasgow Hawks as well as the Scottish Schools athletics and the Team GB U23 athletics team.
“We’re delighted he’s here,” added Cole, who admits running a club and keeping it thriving in the UAE is a massive challenge each year, especially over the summer.
“We wish him all the best and we’ll look to carry on developing rugby across all age groups – that’s the main aim. And we hope to develop coaches as well as players.
“When you’ve got all these transient people coming and going we’re having to develop new coaches all the time as well as players. It’s not easy out here in the Middle East. People at your home club are always on call but people come and go here so it’s a new challenge every year.”
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