Xodus Wasps chairman Craig Gibson believes new head coach Mike Pugsley is the man to take the club back into the UAE Premiership.
After a disastrous 2014/15 season, which saw Wasps relegated to the Conference, Gibson is hoping Pugsley’s appointment will give the club some of its buzz back.
Wasps lurched from farce to furore last season, stung by a Dh10,000 fine from the UAE Rugby Federation before the season even kicked off in September for failing to send a member of staff on a medical course.
They lost five straight games in the Premiership – finishing with a points difference of -137 – and will be replaced by Conference champions Al Ain Amblers this season.
They finished rock bottom of the post-Christmas Gulf Conference, below Dubai Exiles, Doha 2nds and Muscat.
To compound matters, a second run-in with the UAE RF saw their second team disqualified from the Conference for forfeiting a number of games. Gibson hopes the drama is behind them and that their rugby will dominate the headlines in 2015/16.
“We’re excited about Mike’s appointment and he’s certainly happy to come on board. He liked the feel of the club and is excited about the challenge of re-energising and rejuvenating us,” said Gibson.
Pugsley, 30, has a good rugby pedigree, having coached Conference side Sharjah Wanderers last season.
He is also director of rugby at the English College Dubai.
Gibson added: “He’s excited about the new challenge and we’re very excited too. We’re confident he’s one of the best qualified coaches in the UAE.
“He’s the man we think to get us back to where we belong – the UAE Premiership. We respect the other clubs but we see ourselves as a Premiership club and we want to be back there next season.
“There’s no-one at the club who wouldn’t say we’re not hoping to get back there this year.”
Gibson admitted the previous campaign was arguably the worst since the club was formed five years ago. However, he says optimism is swarming around Wasps.
“We were relegated to the Conference so we needed to reassess our aims and options,” he said.
“It was a difficult season last year. We struggled on the administration side and with injuries throughout the campaign, as well as the freak amount of players we missed (28) against Abu Dhabi Saracens in the October Premiership game because of injuries and an outbreak of conjunctivitis.
“We couldn’t get any momentum going. We were in a cycle of despair. Confidence and morale were affected and it became a constant issue, it was a struggle.
“Despite all that the atmosphere around the club is still strong. The ladies’ team did well and have just won a title at the Budapest 7s while we’ve retained lots of players and attracting new.”
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