In the opening season of Qatar Rugby 7s, Camels 1 dominated the competition and imperiously lifted the winners’ trophy earlier this year.
This time round, the second season of the competition, which is being held this month with an eye on Dubai 7s, the other teams are keen to make amends.
The matches in the tournament are to be played on all four Fridays in November, starting with November 4.
While Camels have bolstered their ranks with more Fijian players, who proved to be the difference last time round, some of the other teams too have gone through changes they are hoping will make an impact.
For starters, Doha RFC Hurricanes, who finished runners-up to Camels, will be lining up more of their first-team players in the sevens team in preparation for the Dubai 7s.
Last year, two of their key players, Aaron McLelland and Greg Evans, had lined up for the Camels for the sevens. While McLelland has since moved to Canada, Evans will be with his DRFC teammates for the November 7s tournament.
“We have also brought in a player, who has played in New Zealand 7s. That should also be a big boost for our team,” said Doha’s fly-half Brook Tremayne.
“Last year, because it was our first year, we put in our seconds side in here. This year we are concentrating on Dubai 7s, and we plan on getting a lot of our 1s players into our sevens side here. So it should be good competition, because last time the Camels sort of ran away with the tournament,” the 28-year-old New Zealander said.
Lions, who had lost to Doha in the semi-finals, have said that they are better prepared this time.
“Earlier we used to go down to QP’s ground in Mesaieed to practice. Most of us are based in Doha. That was quite a drive,” said the team’s 27-year-old captain Andrew Jansen.
“Now, we have been given Aspire as a training option, three days in a week now, and it’s much closer for us as players.
“Last time, we were able to put in some time but it was a short notice for us. It was tough to get the guys organised. But this time we have taken care of all that because we got the dates well in advance, so we were able to put in more time and effort. So hopefully, we will be able to go a couple of steps above what we did last time.”
Both the teams that played the Bowls Finals, CNA-Q and Blue Falcons, have undergone some entity changes.
CNA-Q have been renamed Doha Pirates and will now play as a separate entity from the educational institution. Similarly, the Blue Falcons, which essentially started as a students team, has also moved away and are now called the Blue Phoenix.
For now, the change seems to have augured well for the Phoenix, who are on a four-match winning streak in the XVs league, helping them top the league with 19 points. The Pirates, on the other hand, with a match in hand, have two points in their kitty.
“We are quite happy with our results in the 15s so far. We are on top. But we still have the semis and the finals,” said Blue Phoenix player and president Rony Georges.
“For the sevens, we are quite happy to participate for the second year in the tournament. Last year was the first time we participated in a sevens tournament, and we were not very good, but we have more players for the 15s. We are looking to improve. And we are looking forward to Dubai 7s.”
Pirates’ Ahmad Essam is hopeful the team will put up a better showing than last time round.
“We did win the Bowls Finals last time, and we are getting better. We have good numbers, close to 25-30 players, and many experienced players from South Africa,” said Essam, who plays winger in the 15s and centre in the 7s.
Essam is very positive about the effect coaches Bertus Pool and Farrell Jacobs have had on the team. “These days we learn a lot. Earlier, a group of players who had played rugby for a year or two would get together and do what they knew. But now experienced players have come in and they are teaching us a lot,” said Essam, who is a Nubian from southern Egypt.
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