UAE Expat Rugby News

Club of the Year Nominations – Who’s in the running?

gulf rugby club of the year 2019

It’s been a long old season again with plenty of quality rugby played at all levels of the game from mini/junior and women’s rugby, right the way through to the senior men. We’ve now been in the ‘off season’ for just over a month and many of you are already climbing the wall with the rugby withdrawal symptoms.

Fear not, because before you all get stuck into pre-season training again, there’s still one final chapter of this season to be written for one rugby club. It’s time to decide who is the Yalla Rugby Club of the Year 2019. Last year RAK Rugby Club won the inaugural award after some fierce voting from fans from all parts the globe, (which managed to crash the Yalla website for a short while).

Jump right in:

So, about the award…

What is the Yalla Rugby Club of the Year award?

Within most rugby clubs there’s always end of season awards that are handed out, which is fantastic for players and members of the clubs. BUT, we like to celebrate Gulf Rugby as a whole with some of the most outstanding achievements to have taken place throughout the season. You – the readers and followers of Yalla Rugby, can vote for the rugby club that you think deserves to win this year.

How can a club be shortlisted?

We select four clubs from all areas of rugby which we feel have contributed and succeeded the most throughout the season and let you, the public decide who should win by casting your vote. Nominations are based on success at all levels of the game as well as contributions to the broader rugby community.

  • Mens Rugby
  • Womens Rugby
  • Mini/Junior Rugby
  • Community Involvement

The four nominees are then pitted against each other and put to a vote to see who is worthy winner of this prestigious award.

Who’s been nominated for the 2018/19 award?

The nominated rugby clubs are listed below. Commiserations to the rugby clubs that have not made this years nominations. It was a hard decision between a couple of other very worthy contenders. Voting is now open and will close at 22:00 on the 25th June 2019:


Concussion Baseline Testing For Rugby [INFORMATION]

rugby concussion specialists dubai

Do not ignore concussion symptoms if you’ve recently experienced a concussive episode.

The specialist doctors at UpAndRunning in Dubai can provide comprehensive head injury assessment, concussion screening and management program.

They offer neurocognitive baseline testing, outreach and education sessions to rugby clubs, and urgent assessment and evaluation of patients after a rugby related head injury or suspected concussion.

Please Remember

Any athlete with a suspected concussion should be medically cleared before engaging in contact sport, especially one such as rugby. Multiple concussions can be problematic if the brain has not had enough time to heal resulting in serious consequences following a secondary impact.

Concussion Symptoms

Immediate Symptoms

  • Headache
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling sick
  • Feeling dazed or “dinged”

Later Symptoms

  • Fatigue
  • Drowsiness
  • Feeling “in a fog”
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Change in mood (anxiety, depression
  • Change in memory
  • Difficulty concentrating (TV, computer, gaming)

25% of concussions are only diagnosed AFTER the rugby game. You don’t have to be in pain to be concussed.

For more information about concussions and its treatment, call Tanya Maine on 04 518 5400 or email her on

Mike Wolff, Dubai Exiles Chairman has Choosday Chat [EXTENDED]

Mike Wolff - Dubai Exiles Rugby Club Chairman

We have a special Choosday Chat with Dubai Exiles departing Chairman, Mike Wolff.


Age: 52
Born: Limavady in Northern Ireland – yes I just got my post Brexit Irish passport!
Your home club: Several – the last club I played for was Tokyo Crusaders before moving to Dubai Exiles.
Position: Lock or back row
Level of rugby played: My old regiment took rugby very seriously and so I played rugby in the British Army for 12 years with some far more talented players there than I ever was. That aside local club rugby wherever I lived in the world.

“I hope that the UAERF can find a way to be far more supportive of club rugby”

Mike Wolff and his family are leaving Dubai after a fifteen year stint in the desert. Wolff, a partner of Control Risks and Chairman of the Dubai Exiles reflects upon his time with the Premiership club in our Choosday Chat special before he makes his move over to start a new chapter in his life in Washington DC, USA.

Do you have any nicknames?

None that can be published online on a family website…

How long have you been involved with the Exiles?

I’ve been involved with the Exiles for fifteen and a half years! I moved here from Tokyo knowing just one bloke whose three sons all played at the Exiles mini and junior rugby section in 2004 – he dragged me along to help coach and the rest is history. [His eldest son now plays for Wasps, England 7s and is currently on loan to Griquas in South Africa playing Currie Cup rugby. Clearly I am taking as much credit for him as I possibly can!].

How has the Exiles transformed as a club since you have been involved?

We now offer more sports than just rugby compared to when I started, namely cricket, netball and touch rugby. We had to move from our old home of forty years at Al Awir to the Sevens Stadium in 2008, and last year we opened our new clubhouse which took us five years to get through planning and construction. Naturally I think it is now the best clubhouse facility in the Middle East!

What has been your best memory during your time with Exiles?

There are many. Winning the UAE Premiership twice in the last three years, winning the Dubai 7s for the first time in 11 years 2 years ago, winning the West Asia Premiership three years ago, losing the West Asia Premiership with the last kick of the match this season in the lion’s den that is Bahrain RFC, the tremendous success of our Under 18 girls rugby squad over the last four years, several of our Mini & Youth alumni going on to become professional players, our 50th anniversary ball, the growth and delivery every year (with Dubai Hurricanes) of the HSBC Dubai Mini & Youth Rugby Festival, and working with great people at the club who have in turn become the closest of friends.

If you could change one thing about UAE Rugby, what would it be?

I hope that the UAERF can find a way to be far more supportive of club rugby. Without that, UAE rugby will never be what it truly could be. I would love to see more Emirati involvement at the clubs. There is no good reason for that not to be happening more than it is now.

What has been the biggest challenge that you’ve faced during your time with the club?

Rebuilding the club’s self-confidence and sense of identity after we lost our old facility to the bulldozers in 2008. It isn’t easy watching your home that you built over many decades, and where the Dubai 7s was created, being levelled.

Where do you see UAE rugby heading in the next five years?

The club game is definitely facing some headwinds. There needs to be (in my opinion) fewer but larger clubs that are consequently more resilient to economic downturns and transient playing populations. In the time I have been Chairman I have seen several UAE rugby clubs fold or miss seasons, primarily due to external pressures. If clubs only focus on their own survival as opposed to what is the best model for the game here, then the quality of the offering will steadily dilute and become very average. If we want to continue to have a high quality Premiership offering, then that costs money for the right resources to deliver it – and nine clubs in one small city (Dubai) all fighting for sponsors and members makes no sense. The club game needs to be focused on building from the top down and not the other way around. Equally we also need to be more rigorous as to what defines a “rugby club” – I’m afraid I personally don’t believe we should be encouraging new clubs that do not have as a minimum both a Senior section and a Mini & Youth section to be part of the rugby scenery here. We need to be offering pathways within clubs for players from five years old to 1st XVs and that can deliver a full family experience.

If you could be one of the players, who would it be and why?

Durandt Gerber, our 1st XV captain from last season and former Italy A fly-half. Irritatingly talented, annoyingly humble, the ladies love him, he’s a great role model for all the kids and most importantly he is a thoroughly decent human being. (He still missed that big kick in Bahrain though…)

What’s been your proudest moment as Chairman of Exiles?

On the pitch it would be our Director of Rugby – Jacques Benade and the 1st XV delivering the UAE Premiership and West Asia Premiership double three years ago. When I took over as Chairman, just after we exited Al Awir, the senior end of the club was in a mess. We had eight players turn up for our first men’s training session eight years ago, so to do that in five years was amazing. Off the pitch we have helped a number of our members who have faced some very tough personal situations – family bereavement, serious illness, sudden unemployment and so on. I’d like to think as a Club we always try to “do the right thing” when our members need help. I also think that together with some like minded fellow Chairmen we have recently started to make real progress, delivering a more sustainable game, and a safer and better insured playing environment that hopefully continues to attract players of all shapes and sizes.

Who has the worst dress sense in club?

Any of our senior players that speak Afrikaans as their first language – fifty shades of khaki anyone!? That said, some of my flowery linen shirts have incurred fines, so I am in no position to judge.

Do you have any hidden talents?

I spent three years working in Tokyo, the home of karaoke. I like to think my renditions of Rhinestone Cowboy by Glenn Campbell, and various Neil Diamond efforts will be sorely missed. I suspect I am wrong however.

What was the last takeaway you ordered?

It was a Chinese meal, three weeks ago and it gave me a nasty parasite for two weeks. Lesson learned.

Who would be your three dream dinner guests?

Sir Winston Churchill, Ricky Gervais and my Grandfather who died in 1956 – he survived three years in the trenches in WW1 and inspired me to join the British Army. I wish I’d known him.

How’s life been for you in Dubai and what will you miss most about it?

I had a migrant life as a soldier and businessman all around the world before I came here; Dubai has been the longest time I have lived in one place and that tells you something. I am heading off to Washington DC for an amazing professional and personal opportunity, but I will miss the people in Dubai, the Exiles and my work colleagues hugely. The quality of life here is great, the region offers wonderful travel opportunities, and the country is a marvellous example of how a different style of leadership can create a multi-cultural, safe and tolerant society. As the world seems to be polarising hard these days, such a model should perhaps be admired and emulated in my humble opinion.

For someone looking to join the Exiles, how would you describe the club culture to them?

It is very much a proper rugby club where great memories can be made with great people. The more you put into helping others at the Club the more you will get out of it. Once an Exile, always an Exile.

Exiles Director of Rugby, Jacques Benade gives thanks to Mike saying;

“We are very sad to lose Mike, our chairman at Dubai Exiles. A very passionate and influential figure fighting to get the best for expat rugby in the UAE. Mike is passionate about rugby and was always working to get the rugby played here in the UAE at the highest competitive level possible. The work Mike has done at the Exiles, the hours he’s put in to build the club as one of the best clubs in the West Asia and UAE Premiership, not just at senior level but also at mini and youth, will leave a legacy that hopefully everyone will be able to build on.”

General Manager, John Ebbitt had also had this to say;

“Mike has an indomitable passion for the Dubai Exiles and for rugby in the UAE. He has worked tirelessly to safeguard the club’s future and the Dubai Exiles status as one of the top rugby clubs in the Middle East.”

Club Captain, DuRandt Gerber said;

“Mike is an honest person, a lover of the game that just wants to see the game grow. He’s a true club man.”

Conference Rugby By Numbers

We’ve compiled all of this year’s Conference Rugby stats to show club performances throughout the 2018/19 season.

UAE Set to Return to Asia Rugby Division 1

uae rugby division 2 champions 2019

Photo credit to Asia Rugby

UAE With Another Big Win in Thailand

After thumping Guam in the semi finals of the Division 2 Championship, UAE Rugby took on their hosts, Thailand, in a Championship Cup Final showdown to earn head coach, Apollo Perelini and his (some might say strongest to date) UAE side promotion up to the Asia Rugby Division One league next season. They will join the likes of the Singapore, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Chinese Taipei. The Division One Championship is due to kick off next week in Taipei City, Taiwan.

Saturday’s match against Thailand looked to be heading for another pasting for the opposition facing an in form UAE squad, as they went in at half time 45 points up on the hosts, but credit to a resilient Thai side, they managed to put 12 points on the scoreboard in the second half and only allow a content UAE side to add another 5 points to complete up a successful campaign back to Division One. Perelini praised his team saying;

“The boys did me proud, even though they put the cue on the rack at half time.”

stephen ferguson uae rugby player

#sureheknowshimself – Stephen Ferguson

It’s been a phenomenal year for Exiles lock forward – Stephen Ferguson, following what started as a pretty rocky start to the season with injury woes, to come through the second half of the season fighting fit again and ending up in the UAE National squad.

Collectively Perelini’s squad have totalled 132 points and conceded just 19 in their Asia Rugby Championship campaign of 2019. Over the two matches, Botes scored 5 tries, Natuna with 4, Naisau and Richards both getting 3, Ferguson with 2 and Anderson, Armitage and Stevenson getting one each. UAE Captain and Harlequins fly-half Luke Stevenson’s kicking rate was impressive, converting 16 of the 20 tries.

UAE now head home for a well deserved break and will be saying farewell to stand-in defensive coach, Louie Tonkin, who heads for pastures new after leading newly crowned West Asia Champions of 2018/19, Bahrain Rugby following a close encounter with Dubai Exiles back in March. Tonkin will be heading to Exeter Chiefs RFC in England to take up a coaching role with the academy.

UAE vs Thailand, 18th May 2019

Tries: Ferguson (2), Natuna (2), Richards (2), Botes, Stevenson

Conversions: Stevenson (5)

UAE Head For Final Showdown Against Thailand

UAE play Thailand rugby Asia rugby cup

UAE Thrash Guam in the Semi Final of Asia Rugby Championship

The UAE International rugby side have their sites firmly set on a return to Division One of Asia Rugby, having plowed their way past Guam in a first of two fixtures in Thailand, beating them in convincing style 82-7. To gain automatic promotion to Division One, they will need to beat Thailand on Saturday 18th May in the Cup Final of the Division Two Championship.

With a reformed side, built up of UAE Premiership rugby clubs, Eagles, Exiles, Dragons, Harlequins and Hurricanes, head coach Apollo Perelini will be looking to climb the ranks of World Rugby.

Ranked 70th in the World Rugby leaderboard, the UAE played 69th place – Guam in the semi final in Hua Hin, on Wednesday and put a flurry of points past them with Dubai Exiles backrow Jaen Botes and Dubai Hurricanes centre Sakiusa Naisau both getting their a hat-trick of tries.

Tries: Jaen Botes (4), Sakiusa Naisau (3), Kini Natuna (2), Hamish Anderson, Ed Armitage, Matt Richards.

Conversions: Luke Stevenson (11)

Warriors’ Rose goes to Japan World Cup with DHL

Rose Tesse Dubai Warriors RFC

Lucky Winner, Rose Tesse from Dubai Warriors Rugby Club

Local rugby club, Dubai Warriors‘ sponsor DHL recently offered a truly money-can’t-buy prize for the club’s end of season ‘Sportsman of the Year’ award – the opportunity to deliver the match ball onto the pitch for one of the World Cup semi finals in Japan.

Each of the mini/junior age group was asked to nominate the player they felt most demonstrated Warriors’ rugby values – honour, loyalty and courage. These players were entered into a draw and the lucky winner was Rose Tesse of the U12 Girls team.

While all of the nominees were deserving winners, Rose’s win was particularly special as the U12 Girls had had a fantastic 2018/19 season, winning their league as well as two out of three tournaments.

Rose said,

“I’m very happy to have been nominated for the DHL Sportsman of the Year award, and so grateful to have won this amazing prize! It will be an honour to represent Warriors in Japan, and an experience I’ll never forget.”

Warriors would like to say a huge thank you to DHL for this wonderful prize, and look forward to seeing Rose on TV at the World Cup!

Perelini Names UAE Team To Face Guam In Semi Final

UAE rugby team Thailand 2019

UAE Rugby captain Luke Stevenson giving a team talk


Perelini Names Starting XV To Face Guam In Asia Rugby Semi Final

Head coach of national UAE Rugby, Apollo Perelini, has named his starting XV ahead of their first ever fixture against Guam in the Asia Rugby Championship 2019. The UAE will kick off their semi final match in Hua Hin, Thailand on the 15th May, and will be looking to progress to the final where they will play either Thailand or pre tournament favourites, Kazakhstan.

Perelini’s men will be looking for promotion back up to Division One following their relegation to Division Two last year when they withdrew from the tournament. They will have the opportunity to gain automatic promotion should they beat Guam and then either Thailand or Kazakhstan in the final which will be played on the 18th may 2019.

Louie Tonkin (left) and Apollo Perelini (right)

Louie Tonkin (left) and Apollo Perelini (right)

A Boost From Bahrain

An already strong looking set of forwards will be boosted with the addition of former Bahrain Rugby Club coach, Louie Tonkin as he joins Perelini as UAE Forwards Coach for the competition. Following the trip in Thailand, Tonkin will be heading to UK Premiership rugby side, Exeter Chiefs’ as Academy Coach, having just ended a superb stint with Bahrain, winning the West Asia Premiership after a thriller of a match against the Exiles.

Captain, Luke Stevenson thinks Tonkin has had a great impact so far;

“Louie is a class coach and has implemented a few new things that I think will be of great benefit to our forwards”

UAE National Rugby Team 2019

Starting Lineup To Face Guam

Forwards: Chris Jones-Griffiths, Gio Fourie, Craig Nutt, Daniel Perry, Isaac Porter, Matt Mills (VC), Hamish Anderson, Jaen Botes.

Backs: Barry Dwyer, Luke Stevenson (C), Sean Carey, Andrew Powell, Sakiusa Naisau, Thinus Steyn, Matthew Richards

Finishers: Lukas Waddington, Murray Reason, Ahmed Moosa, Stephen Ferguson, Sean Stevens, Edward Armitage, Kini Natuna, Majid Al Balooshi

You can view a live stream of the match which will be shown on the Asia Rugby Facebook page at 12:30 UAE Time.

Photo credits: Stephen Ferguson

Justin Brits from Dubai Warrior’s RFC Has A Choosday Chat

Justin Brits - Dubai Warriors Rugby Player

We have a Choosday Chat with Dubai Warriors Fly-Half, Justin Brits.


Age: 16
Born: Pretoria, South Africa.
Club: Duabi Warriors RFC
Position: Fly-half / Inside Centre
Height: 185cm
Weight: 76kg

“My blood’s always been blue”

Justin Brits

Who or what inspired you to play rugby?

From a young age, I’ve always grown up playing rugby and wanting to play professionally has always been a big goal for me.

Which team do you support from your home country?

I support the ‘Blue Bulls’ which is the team representing Pretoria in South Africa. The day I was born, my dad put a Blue Bulls beanie on my head and since that day my blood’s always been blue!

Do you have any nicknames?

My teammates either call me ‘Chris’ or ‘Ystervark’ (which is Afrikaans for porcupine, because of my short hair…!)

What do you get up to in your spare time?

Apart from just passing a rugby ball around, I like to do anything to relax like go to the pool or hit the local beach.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?

I would love to have the ability to fly, it would be cool to just go wherever you want, whenever you want.

Do you have any hidden talents?

I can play the guitar a little bit.

Who does the cooking at home and what’s your favourite meal?

My mother does most of the cooking and my favourite meal would definitely have to be boerewors and mielie-meal when we have a ‘braai’.

What would you like to do when you leave school?

I’d love to go to university and study something along the lines of sports management as it seems like an interesting subject. I’ll definitely push to play rugby for my university as well, and hopefully the local club.

Who are the jokers at the Warriors?

I’d have to say Reese O’Connell, he’s always got a smile on his face and cracking jokes… even during fitness training!

If you could be one of your team-mates, who would it be and why?

I’d probably choose Bradley Tarr – I’d like to see and experience how a prop plays the game. They’re absolute workhorses.

Which opposition do you look forward to playing against the most?

I love playing against the Dubai Hurricanes as they’re our toughest opposition and I thoroughly enjoy playing and testing myself against the best.

Who’s the best dancer in the Warriors squad

Again, probably Reese O’Connell, he loves his performing arts.

Whats been your proudest moment playing rugby in the UAE?

Captaining our u16 Warriors team to our most successful season yet and winning the league final this year!

What are the best things about being part of the Warriors rugby club?

It really is a brotherhood. We’ve all built such a great bond with each other, even with our teammates’ parents – which is something really special.

How’s life in Dubai?

Dubai is awesome! Especially with friends and family here, and the opportunities we have here are amazing.

Amblers Ladies Host Eagles in 1st Leg of XVs Rugby Fixtures

Amblers Ladies vs Eagles Ladies - 15s Rugby

Amblers Host Eagles For Ladies XVs Encounter

After a long hard season of rugby 7s, and 10s tournaments, UAE women’s rugby teams, Dubai Eagles and Al Ain Amblers, came together to play the first leg of a mini 15s series at the Ambler’s home ground on Friday evening.

The 7s form of rugby between these two teams has always been a physical encounter, and this was no different. The Eagles side (a combination of their A, B and C teams) was under pressure from the start with the Amblers scoring an early try from what would be their main and prominent play – quick recycling of the ball to their power runners.

The Eagles, although putting in some impressive tackles, were under pressure off the rucks and the scrums. It was only when they did what brought them success at the 2018 Dubai Sevens, which was retaining the ball and work their support play, that they managed to get ball wide.

ladies rugby 15s fixture between Amblers and Eagles

With the Amblers going in at half time 21-12 up, the Eagles knew they had to be patient, trust in their fitness, and work on their offloads and it paid off with an early try. Amblers responded by drawing the Eagles’ defence in and use width and a simple but effective two vs one out wide. This was to be the only try of the second half for the ladies from the Garden City as the Eagles started to find their rhythm, securing cleaner ball off the set piece and offloading to their dynamic runners to punch through and score out wide.

The final score was 46-26, with both teams exhausted and shuffling off the pitch to the cheers of the ever supportive Al Ain home crowd, after what was a true 15s battle.

UAE Rugby Referee Simon Dodd Has A Choosday Chat

Simon Dodd - UAE Rugby referee

We have a Choosday Chat with UAE Referee, Simon Dodd.


Age: 40
Born: Rinteln, Germany
Referee Level: Premiership

“I try and stay away from them”

What do you get up to in your spare time?

I’m a full time teacher with a family…not sure what this ‘spare time’ is?

Do you have any phobias?

Rucks mainly, I try and stay away from them.

Who’d you like to be stuck in a lift with?

A lift engineer, if one is not available then Donald Trump. What a conversationalist!

If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?

Flying, have you seen the price of plane tickets these days?

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Eating an entire tub of ice cream and then blaming it on the children.

Do you have any hidden talents?

Refereeing – it’s a very hidden talent.

Who or what inspired you to pick up the whistle?

My Dad, an injury and Spreaders (Tony Spreadbury) in South West England. Best seat in the house.

Out of all the refs, who has the worst dress sense?

Well it has to be Hermann – we’re in the new century!!

What’s the toughest thing about reffing?

Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork in triplicate.

If you could be one of the other UAE Refs, who would you be and why?

A combination of James and Niell, they are both young and fit – just like me.

What was the last takeaway you ordered?

It was an Indian – I can’t resist an Onion Bhaji or four.

What industry do you work in?

I work education, I’m Chemistry Teacher.

Hows life in the UAE?

I live in Al Ain which is great for the family. The Ramblers (Al Ain Amblers RFC) provide a really good set up with pool, bar and of course the rugby. Both kids are settled and enjoy lots of activities, particularly eating ice cream in the plethora of malls!

RAK Chairman Simon Williams Announces Retirement

rak rugby chairman simon williams

RAK Rugby Chairman To Step Down

The Chairman of RAK Rugby, Simon Williams has announced he will step down from his role and a new Chairman and several new board members will be sworn in at the upcoming AGM for the club.

“Now comes the time for me to retire. I have thoroughly enjoyed the three years in charge and will take away many wonderful memories. I’m particularly proud of what we have achieved at the club, transitioning into a proper functioning business as we needed to, both legally and commercially.”

RAK Rugby Club have been through difficult times throughout Williams tenure at the club. In particular, the death of Nick Young had been a horrific time for all members of RAK Rugby and the wider rugby community. Such is the rallying spirit within the UAE rugby community though, Nick will be honoured forever with the Nick Young Trophy. Funds continue to be raised for Nick’s wife and boys who will be having a well deserved holiday with the recent funds raised.

his highness sheikh saud


Other notable changes made during Williams’ time in charge have been the name change from the RAK Goats to RAK Rugby and the set up of the club up under Royal Decree from His Highness Sheikh Saud, the ruler of Ras al Khaimah and getting his endorsement was a key moment in the club’s development.

At the beginning of the 2017/18 rugby season, the club moved to playing on to a grass pitch and the changes put in place attracted new coach Craig Chapman, as well as new players. This was reflected in wins at the Dubai Sevens, Barrelhouse 10’s, the inaugural Nick Young Trophy against the Knights RFC as well as finishing 4th in the UAE Community League 2017/18. The club also managed to introduce a women’s team under Williams as Chairman.

“The season before we’d been the whipping boys of the Community League and now we’re beating teams we’ve never beaten before and achieved respect across the leagues, resulting in the Yalla Rugby Club of the year award for 2017/18.”

RAK Rugby Cub Of The Year 2018

During the 2018/19 season, RAK Rugby continued their success with the Men’s rugby team hitting their highest league position of 3rd place and the vets team winning in the Dubai 7s. The Womens rugby team have developed further this year, winning the Cross Border Sevens Series C league tournament, several B league wins and finally cementing themselves in the A league as a force to be reckoned with for 2019/20.

Williams has highlighted some of his best memories throughout the three years as RAK Rugby Chairman:

simon williams

  • Playing away at Al Ain Amblers in the 2016/17 season and winning their first match with just 15 men (Williams getting the forwards Man of the Match award) and enjoying a now legendary bus journey home!
  • Coaching and developing two mini/junior rugby teams and seeing the kids and parents beaming with delight at our first match against the Dubai Hurricanes
  • Helping start the Women’s team and watching them play their first tournament when we only had 5 girls and they managed to win one game against 7!
  • Managing our Vets in the Dubai 7s 2018/19 tournament, where we won the bowl and a bunch of us old guys were all jumping around like kids at the final whistle!

“Of course, I couldn’t have enjoyed or done any of the above without a fantastic team of committee members, sponsors and volunteers around me. It truly has been an honour and privilege to be Chairman at RAK and I look forward to watching them play as a spectator in the new season.”

Barrelhouse RFC’s Matt Rubin Has A Choosday Chat

Matt Rubin Barrelhouse rugby Dubai

We have a Choosday Chat with Barrelhouse loose head prop, Matt Rubin.


Age: 41
Born: Buckinghamshire, UK
Club: Barrelhouse Rugby Club
Position: Utility back/Loose head
Height: 180cm
Weight: 120kg

“I developed a trademark bosh”

Who or what inspired you to play rugby?

My dad! He took me all around the UK for mini/junior, colts and county and then divisional rugby every week for over 12 years.

Do you have any nicknames?

Most of the lads call me “Rubberman” because I developed a trademark bosh with people bouncing off me, which has since been shortened to just “Rubber”.

Whats been your proudest moment playing rugby in the Middle East?

I haven’t played that much rugby here (3 joint recons on top of 3 previous ones) but personally this season playing 15s in the UAE Community League for the first time in 10 years and beating two very good Dragons and Harlequins teams in the league and playoffs and feeling like I can still contribute to the team. From a club perspective seeing the Warriors team I nurtured for 8 years finally win Dubai 7s in 2017 after 2 previous final losses.

Who does the cooking at home?

That would be either Deliveroo or my housekeeper!

Do you have any hidden talents?

I don’t have many, but I know my electronic music pretty well and I have 100 x DJ mixes in iTunes (Rubber Stamped).

What was the last takeaway you ordered?

I last ordered a Taqado Steak Burrito.

What would be your Mastermind specialist subject?

Definitely 90’s rave tunes.

What’s the daftest thing you’ve ever bought that just collected dust?

I once bought a music production keyboard in 2009 when I started playing sport again. That was 2500AED down the drain!

Who’s the best dancer in the Barrelhouse squad?

Hempies, there’s no doubt! He’s a light footed winger on the pitch and a complete groover on the dance floor. You will only find me moving on the other side of the decks.

If you could be one of your team-mates, who would it be and why?

Sorry Pasha/Iceman it has to be PJ, he’s a 20+ tackles / 20+ carries a match kind of guy. He’s a beast with a rugby brain and can do it on and off the pitch and he’s a great tourist too.

Who would be your three dream dinner guests?

I’d love to have a sit down with Jason Leonard, Mickey Skinner and Bakkies Botha, but it would need to be a long lunch.

Who has the worst Dress sense in the squad?

Probably me although I have to say the Red Mist/Gus were seen sporting a terrible green number on our rugby tour.

Which team-mate would you most definitely not like to be stranded in the desert with?

Ha, that would have to be Steve Phoenix. While he would be incredible company during the day with his wonderful jokes and karaoke ballads, he’d no doubt be “lights out” by 8pm after a few too many Coconut Arracks.

How’s life in Dubai?

Well my beautiful now wife Sandy and I came here in 2008 as a couple, but we are blessed to have the delightful Sammy and Grace with number 3, a little sister on the way. The future of Barrelhouse is pink!

Dubai Tigers Sign Off Monumental Season

Tigers End Season With Huge Club Photo And Prize Giving

The Dubai Tigers Rugby Club officially closed their 2018/19 UAE Rugby campaign with a huge prize giving held at Dubai College. Over 600 players, parents and members were present at the event which saw prizes given out to all age groups of their club. It’s been the culmination of a huge season for the club which saw them lift the UAE Conference trophy for the second time in succession and earned them promotion to the UAE Premiership for next season.

Club Chairman Shane Thornton said;

“We had a fantastic prize giving this morning at Dubai college. We awarded players that have shown sportsmanship, improvement and players that are valuable to the team. We also acknowledged every Tiger’s player, girls and boys from under 4s upwards, that have given their all week in week out.”

Thornton went also paid tribute to the support that the club has had throughout the season saying;

“A big thank you to parents, coaches, managers, medics and our sponsors! We also said farewell to many players that have been with us for a few seasons that are leaving Dubai. What a year we had and we look forward to next season.”

tigers prize giving 2018 19

The Dubai Tigers RFC started life in 2013 with a small mini/junior section of only 40 players to now having over 300 playing members across its mini and youth, women’s & men’s senior rugby teams.

Amblers RFC’s Lucian Jansen Has A Choosday Chat

Lucian Jensen - Amblers Rugby Player

We have a Choosday Chat with Amblers outside centre, Lucian Jansen.


Age: 33
Born: Cape town, South africa
Club: Al Ain Amblers
Position: Outside centre or wing
Height: 180cm
Weight: 107kg

“We do have a few clowns in the team”

Do you have any nicknames?

Yes, I have two actually. One is “Hadji”, I was dubbed this name by my team mates back home because I was the only coloured, Indian looking rugby player in the team. Second one is Wakanda. I went on tour last year to Thailand and told my mate, Tito Asafo, every African looking person that walks past us I will do the Wakanda sign from the Black Panther movie and they will respond, which they did and the name just stuck. Half the team was doing ‘Wakanda forever’ throughout the tour.

Who or what inspired you to play rugby?

My high school athletics coach, Thys Ruthven, got me in to rugby mainly because the under 16s school rugby team needed speed and I was the only one keen to do it. That was my first time playing this lovely sport and from then I’ve never looked back.

What do you get up to in your spare time?

Braai, Smoking some Shisha, having a beer and spending time with family and friends, in that order :)

What would you like to achieve outside of rugby?

Wow, after being part of rugby for such a long time I haven’t given it much thought. I guess enjoying the finer things in life, smoking shisha and occasionally playing FIFA.

Do you have any hidden talents?

I can make a mean sponge cake or so I’ve been told.

Who’s the best dancer in the Amblers squad?

It has to be Tom “Run it straight” Hanks (Not the movie star!!).

Who do you listen to to get pumped for a match?

Baby shark, doo doo hahaha, just kidding. I listen to an American football motivational speech by Coach Flowers called “I am a champion”.

Who are the jokers at the Amblers?

We do have a few clowns in the team. To name a few I have to say definitely Alaa Samman, FC Holdt and I count myself too.

What are the best things about being part of Amblers RFC?

The brotherhood on and off the field, the culture and ethos of the Amblers team, oh also not forgetting the bus rides when playing away games.

What was the last takeaway you ordered?

That’s a no brainer, McDonalds because McDonalds is life!

Who would be your three dream dinner guests?

They would probably be Ma’a Nonu and Richie McCaw because it would be awesome to have dinner with those legends and Trevor Noah to add some comic entertainment.

Which opposition do you look forward to playing against the most?

I would have to say Harlequins, always a tough battle on the field.

Who has the worst Dress sense in the squad?

Sean Emmit “Gimmly”, our very own leprechaun ;) He is going to kill me.

Hows life in Al Ain?

Al Ain is good, been here about 2 years and loving it so far. Definitely an easy going life style. It’s an amazing place for my family.

Premiership Rugby By Numbers

We’ve compiled all of this year’s Premiership Rugby stats to show club performances throughout the 2018/19 season.

Dubai Tigers Earn Place In UAE Rugby Premiership

Next season the UAE Rugby Premiership will be boosted by the inclusion of the Dubai Tigers. This comes off the back of two consecutive Conference championship winning seasons for the ‘red and whites’ as they earn their place in the top tier of Gulf rugby.

In its short time of existence (founded in 2013), the Dubai Tigers Rugby Club has gone from strength to strength, starting with a small Junior rugby section of 40 players to today where it boasts over 300 playing members across its Junior, Women’s and Men’s senior squads. The Tigers once again confirmed their status as champions two weeks ago when they beat a spirited Al Ain Amblers side to lift the UAE Conference trophy after a dominant unbeaten 2018/19 rugby season.

shane thornton tigers chairman dubai

Club Chairman and founder, Shane Thornton said;

The promotion to the Premiership means a lot to our club. All players that have been with us for the past 5 years have got us to this point. We’re all really looking forward to the challenge ahead.

The Dubai Tigers will join current Premiership teams – Dragons, Eagles, Exiles, Harlequins and Hurricanes and will also see their 2nd XV team rise from the UAE Community league to the UAE Conference League.

National Rugby Squad Announced For Thailand Championships

uae national rugby squad announcement 2019

Perelini Announces His 27 Man UAE Rugby Squad Ahead Of Thailand Championships In May

High Performance Manager and Coach of the UAE National Rugby team Apollo Perelini has announced his squad to train for this years Division 2 Asia Rugby Championships which will be held in Bangkok, Thailand. The UAE Squad will play their first game on the 15th May against Guam at the multi-purpose Chalerm Phrakiat Bang Bon Stadium in Bangkok. Other opponents in their Division 2 Pool table will be Thailand and Kazakhstan, with the final being played on the 18th May.

Perelini announced his 27 man squad to the players on the eve of the UAE Premiership Final which saw the Abu Dhabi Harlequins regain their crown as Champions of UAE Rugby 2019. The UAE Rugby squad includes 8 players from Harlequins, 7 players from Exiles, 3 from Hurricanes, 3 from Eagles, 3 from Shaheen and 3 players from Dragons.  Training sessions will happen over the coming weeks in preparation for the departure to Thailand on the 12th May.

stephen ferguson uae rugby player

Dubai Exiles lock forward Stephen Ferguson will be looking to make his UAE National team debut having just missed out last year due to the residency threshold. Ferguson said,

“To be selected in the UAE squad has been an absolute dream. I came here over 3 years ago to play rugby for the Dubai Exiles under Coach Jaques Benade and it never entered my mind that I’d still be here now and in the UAE National XV squad. The standard of the players in the squad list is unreal and it’s getting better every year. There’s still lots of hard work to do over the coming 6 weeks to put a claim in to get in the tour squad. And it’s one you really have to relish. I’m really pleased to be selected and I’m looking forward to the next few weeks. Time to knuckle down and put in some hard yards.”



  • Emosi Vecanua (Abu Dhabi Harlequins)
  • Luke Stevenson (Abu Dhabi Harlequins)
  • Andrew Powell (Dubai Hurricanes)
  • Sakiusa Naisau (Dubai Hurricanes)
  • Niko Volavola (Jebel Ali Dragons)
  • Kini Natuna (Abu Dhabi Harlequins)
  • Matthew Richards (Jebel Ali Dragons)
  • Thinus Steyn (Dubai Exiles)
  • Sean Carey (Dubai Eagles)
  • Edward Armitage (Dubai Exiles)
  • Majid Al Balooshi (Dubai Shaheen)
  • Mohamed Suleiman (Dubai Shaheen)


  • Chris Jones-Griffiths (Abu Dhabi Harlequins)
  • Craig Nutt (Abu Dhabi Harlequins)
  • Lucas Waddington (Dubai Exiles)
  • Murray Reason (Abu Dhabi Harlequins)
  • Gio Fourie (Dubai Exiles)
  • Ahmed Moosa (Dubai Shaheen)
  • Daniel Perry (Jebel Ali Dragons)
  • Isaac Porter (Dubai Eagles)
  • Esekaia Dranibota (Abu Dhabi Harlequins)
  • Mohamed Hassan (Dubai Eagles)
  • Matt Mills (Dubai Exiles)
  • Sean Stevens (Abu Dhabi Harlequins)
  • Jaen Botes (Dubai Exiles)
  • Hamish Anderson (Dubai Hurricanes)
  • Stephen Ferguson (Dubai Exiles)

Abu Dhabi Harlequins Regain Premiership Trophy

abu dhabi harlequins premiership rugby champions 2018/19

Harlequins regain UAE Premiership Title

Abu Dhabi Harlequins regain the UAE Premiership Title as they overcame a fired up Jebel Ali Dragons side from Dubai. It was a similar result to the 2017/18 UAE Premiership Final where Harlequins defeated the Dragons in a year which saw them lift the trophy for the second time in the space of three seasons.

Dragons, pushed them all the way, keeping the scoreboard closely tied up to the final 10minutes at 27-27. The side from the capital won 37-27 at The Sevens to confirm their status as the number one side in UAE Rugby.

Final score 37-27 to the Abu Dhabi Harlequins.

Highlights of the UAE Premiership Final 2018/19

You can watch highlights of the match by clicking the video above.

Dubai Tigers – UAE Conference Champions 2018/19

dubai tigers conference rugby champions 2018/19

Tigers Crowned 2018/19 UAE Conference Champions

In what has been the culmination of an unbeaten season for the Dubai Tigers, they managed to sweep aside a spirited Al Ain Amblers team in this years UAE Conference Final to be crowned 2018/19 Champions for the second time in back to back seasons. It was this time last year that they won a dramatic Conference final with an extra time golden try against Sharjah Wanderers.

Amblers started strong but with relentless attacking force of the Tigers they couldn’t hold on to what had been in large a very close fought contest at the Sevens Stadium in Dubai.

Final score 37-21 to the Dubai Tigers.

Highlights of the UAE Conference Final 2018/19

You can watch highlights of the match by clicking the video above.