Bahrain Rugby Football Club’s first XV return to competitive action this evening as they look to take a step closer to the coveted West Asia Premiership title, following an unexpected break last weekend due to the Dubai Eagles’ forfeiting of their scheduled meeting in Saar.
In theory, Bahrain could seal top spot in the league standings today should they beat Dubai Exiles on home soil and nearest challengers Abu Dhabi Harlequins – currently nine points adrift – fail to win, with only two further rounds left to play.
Head coach Louie Tonkin and his charges will have only one team and one outcome on their minds however, against an Exiles outfit who were responsible for the only defeat of Bahrain’s season and later forfeited their previously scheduled fixture in November.
Unsurprisingly then, Tonkin has his side fully loaded for this much-anticipated 5pm kick-off, a first home fixture for Bahrain since mid-December, with only two injury-enforced changes and one further positional switch from the side that romped to a comprehensive victory over Quins last time out.
Up front, Sunia Fameitau continues on the loosehead side of the still ever-present Lindsey Gibson, with Arron Dalgarno rewarded for his man-of-the-match performance two weeks ago with a first start in two years at tighthead
Derryn Jones and Tom Bell continue in the engine room, with Jordan Viggers, Alastair Crombie and Tommy Booth once again making up the back-row.
The half-back pairing of Rob Bennett and James Whittingham remains intact, with Dai Evens shifting in to the centre to partner captain Adam Wallace, in the absence of Jack Phillips.
That move sees Greg Heath start on the wing – having also impressed off the bench against Quins – alongside Callum Roberts and Deina Morete.
On the bench, props Jack Parry and Oli Sanson return from injury and suspension respectively and they are joined by fellow forwards Mark Burnell and Aled Morris.
There are also welcome injury returns for playmakers Leon Mauer, in his first appearance of 2019, and Ross Preedy, who is set to feature for the first time since the opening round of the league back in September.