Abu Dhabi Quins front up for Jebel Ali final clash
Abu Dhabi Harlequins director of rugby Chris Davies is hopeful a draining few weeks off the pitch will not take their toll on it in this Friday’s ARFU West Asia Cup final.
Quins welcome Jebel Ali Dragons to Zayed Sports City for the season-ending clash a week after they were forced to forfeit the pair’s Gulf Top Six encounter due to a lack of available front-row specialists.
Davies and physio Patrick Milton have been working overtime to ensure at least five of the club’s 17 registered props and hookers are fit and available for the game, and they are confident they have succeeded.
“It’s pleasing we can actually start the game because we’ve now got three front-rows, which is good," said Davies. “It’s been the hardest week or two of rugby that I’ve had since I’ve been here. So it’s been a tough couple of weeks.
“Last week we only had two [front-row specialists] available, it was a tough call and the last couple of weeks have been tough mentally.”
He added: “Things are thrown out there to challenge us and it shows the character of the team and coaching staff to overcome this. Those types of decisions are never taken lightly.”
Davies – who believes clubs should be allowed to borrow players to ensure games go ahead – will not be able to call on former Newcastle and Munster player Jeremy Manning, as he is in Hong Kong for the sevens.
However, one player making a mad dash to be involved is Ed Lewsey. The former Plymouth Albion and Exeter Chiefs scrum-half will only land in Abu Dhabi in the early hours of Friday morning having taken a side from British School Al Khubairat to the Rosslyn Park National Schools Sevens in London.
“He lands early morning, it’s never nice coming off a plane and getting straight into the action. I’m sure he’ll be here on time, it’s just a case of ensuring he’s mentally focused and OK after his hamstring injury,” Davies added.
Dragons coach Shane Thornton has a full squad to choose from and says his side are raring to go. The side from Jebel Ali upset Quins in the Premiership final last November with a 28-12 victory after Quins had cruised through the domestic season.
Thornton said: “Last week we didn’t have a problem playing. Now they’ve just had a week off so they’re firing on eight cylinders at the moment.”
Thornton does not think mental fatigue will be a factor for the opposition. He added: “Chris knows how to coach, he’s been coaching for a while, his team will be right on the task.”