The women’s cross border 7s series starts Friday 7th October with Dubai Sharks Ladies hosting the first tournament of the season.
The tournament will have 14 teams from 8 clubs, with Kuwait yet to be seen this season and Wasps new women’s team yet to make an entrance in the series.
The teams have been training for almost two months in some cases and will be aching to get on the pitch to finally get a run out. Dubai Hurricanes have had two friendly sessions already, which have been vital for running out some new players, but nothing quite replaces the feeling of game day.
Dubai Sharks will also be under the charge of a new coach this season after some summer reshuffling and with some new blood in the squad would be looking to lay down a marker at their home tournament.
Dubai Hurricanes, the current league and Dubai Sevens champions will this season be with major play maker and ex England U20s player Alex Cook, but they still have plenty of pace and sevens structure from evidence of their warm up games.
Al Ain will sadly miss the experience of Katie Minto, and coach Manu has finally passed the clipboard forward, but the team will no doubt continue to surprise many this season.
Abu Dhabi Saracens will be in only their second year season on the 7s circuit and will be comfortable enough in the game to regularly challenge the B team tournament cups. They may have to be careful though, winning the days tournament, means promotion to the A side, which can often disrupt a team’s weekly planning. The side ran in some fluent tries last season under the coaching of Saracen’s Steve Hamilton and will be one of the seasons more improved sides.
Doha’s Oryx and Trojans will again be pushing teams especially in the B league which promises to be as competitive as the A competition and all teams will be looking forward to heading to Doha’s home series; often the social highlight of the season.
With Alex Cook away, many will see the Abu Dhabi Harlequins as main contenders, with Fiona Scally running around, through and over most other players, Quins 1st can cause chaos in any team.
Bridie Johnson from Heartbeat Tigers, themselves the Dubai Sevens winner from 2014, spoke to Gulf Rugby Paper.
“The Tigers have a healthy squad at training and hope to enter 2 teams from the second tournament onwards. Lots of newbies to the B’s but showing potential. The A team will be competitive again this season with more structure to our coaching and selection process”.
“Our new coach Max Aranui is very passionate and has the Dubai 7’s as his initial goal to win. Spots in the run on the 7s will have to be competed for as we shuffle players into the best positions to suit the team vision”.
Tigers have especially been successful in recruitment of youth players the Under 18’s league including Sophie Shams (a well known local talent) joining in November. Bridie expects both will play key roles in the A side. They have also picked up some ex Sharjah players in Dana and Louise which bulks up their forward pack.
Asked about Alex Cook and Bridie reflects: “We look forward to seeing her again but of course she puts a spanner in the works if she comes back to play for Canes in the Dubai 7’s. She has been playing top level rugby in Australia and combined with Betty Nash as play makers, makes Canes even more challenging”.
Like most teams, Bridies biggest concern is Abu Dhabi; “they are always strong and hard but now they have Una Harkins (ex Sharjah) and an unknown Canadian playing. They will be hard to beat but we have a plan or a change in play to try and match them”.
Bridie is confident for the season and suggests: “Our strength will come in our team work and commitment to be our best. We are training harder than we ever have pre season and we aren’t going to pussy foot about”.
The action gets underway this Friday at Sport City with Doha Trojans and Amblers b side kicking off the season at 1pm.
In a year where Women’s Rugby was the talk of the Olympic games and this week being Womens Week in Sports, there is no better time to get down and watch the action.