UAE Expat Rugby News

rak rugby club new pitch opening 2019

Photo Credit: David Learman

It’s been a long time in the making, but RAK Rugby club finally have a place they can call ‘Home’

Rak Rugby RFC have had their fair share of pitch space over the years. Up until 2017 they were the only Gulf rugby club who played their fixtures on the golden sands of Ras Al Khaimah, training at various locations around the region and playing mostly away fixtures. It was then in 2017 that they made a move to the Tower Links Golf Club where they were able to train on grass for the first time and have a base to build on their foundations as a club which has origins going back to1969, and typically played as an informal social side.

“It is the culmination of many months of hard work and we are proud of how far this club has come.”

Along their journey to where they are today in 2019, which is at a new location within Al Hamra golf club, they have great progress on and off the pitch and still have ambitious plans for Emirati, expatriate and youth rugby in the region.

new rugby pitch opens in ras al khaimah 2019

Photo Credit: Rak Rugby

A New Chapter in the Rak Rugby Story book

After securing a new partnership with Al Hamra golf club last season, Rak rugby saw their dreams of having their own pitch take a first step in becoming reality, as ground was broken and in July the bulldozers rolled in to begin work. Fast forward three months to this coming Friday 18th October and new Chairman Ryan Reaney will be welcoming His Excellency Sheikh Abdullah bin Humaid Al Qasimi, Chief of Ras Al Khaimah’s Rulers Court and RAK Rugby’s patron, to cut the ribbon on the finished rugby pitch and club facilities that Rak Rugby club can finally call ‘Home’. The full size pitch has been built in collaboration with Al Hamra, and comes with newly built changing facilities as well as access to Al Hamra’s hospitality within the golf clubhouse.

Club Chairman, Reaney, said;

“This Friday marks the beginning of a new chapter in the history of our club and rugby in the Northern Emirate. It is the culmination of many months of hard work and we are proud of how far this club has come. Credit must be given to the members of the previous committee; Simon Williams, Eddie Presch, and Dave Learman, as well as current committee members Ken Neves and Galvin McKechnie who have laid the foundations of this project and without which we would not have achieved what we have today.”

“This initiative has only been possible due to the generosity of our sponsors, some of which have been with us for several years.”

“We have also been very lucky to have forged strong new relationships with local companies. Without their financial backing and the support none of this would have materialised. We may be a small club compared to some of our brother clubs in Dubai and Abu Dhabi but we have a tenacious spirit and are proud of our historical roots in Ras Al Khaimah.”

“This is reflected in the fact we have the support and generosity of His Highness Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, who is an active supporter, and to the community at large. Our goal is to grow a love of rugby within our community and we urge everyone and anyone that would like to try the sport to join our men and ladies at training on Monday and Wednesday evenings.”

Rak Rugby Club will officially open their new rugby pitch and facilities in time for the senior men’s rugby match against Division 2 side Dubai Sharks on Friday. Before the kick-off, an opening ceremony will be performed by RAK Rugby’s patron, His Excellency Sheikh Abdullah bin Humaid Al Qasimi.

Gulf Rugby Roundup
Welcome back to our Gulf Rugby updates. This week we’ve got a combo sized rugby roundup of action from both Week one and two.

Jump right in…

Team of the week – The Men In Green From Muscat

Muscat Rugby Club - Team Of The Week

Photo Credit: Muscat Rugby

The arrival of Muscat Rugby Club into Division 2 is a welcome from across a border, that is only a couple of hours drive from Dubai. It’s a great step towards growing Gulf Rugby in the region and we’re sure fixtures in Muscat city will be a highlight for all teams throughout the year. Up until this season we’ve only seen the Omani outfit playing festival rugby, mainly during the Dubai Rugby Sevens competitions. Round One of Division 2 marked the club’s competitive Gulf Rugby XVs debut, and they announced themselves in style with a hard fought 28-19 win over last years Community League finalists and table toppers – Barrelhouse (who made their XV’s rugby debut this time last year).

Karl Rasmussen, Muscat Club Captain commented on their first competitive league outing by saying:

“The most important thing is that all of the players were happy, on both sides. The fixture between us and Barrelhouse was hard fought, but absolutely in the right spirit of the game. The momentum of the game kept switching, so in the end we could not tell who would finally win, and they were unlucky not to get a win or a bonus point, but overall, the next team is going to have an even better time than Barrelhouse, especially if they travel the night before.”

The new addition to club rugby in Division 2 will no doubt make the established order in the league sit up and take notice.


Bahrain Rugby Club vs Dubai Tigers

Photo Credit: Alex Johnson

It was straight back to winning ways for Bahrain after two rounds of West Asia Rugby, as the current Champions made an impressive start to their 2019/20 campaign, collecting maximum points from fixtures against Dubai Tigers and KnightsEagles.

Abu Dhabi Harlequins also made it two from two as they swept aside the Dragons 16-56. Quins then hosted Tigers in a thriller of a match, as they scraped through with a 29-27 win. Tigers certainly look like they’re not here to make up the numbers and will have other teams in the league watching them closely with interest as the season plays out.

Division 1

Abu Dhabi Saracens vs Tigers

Photo Credit: Alex Johnson

In a new tournament structure this year, the league will not be spilt as with previous seasons, but culminates with the top four sides in the league playing a semi final knockout stage, so early wins in the season may prove crucial for teams looking for one of those top four spots.

There were encouraging starts from Dragons, Saracens and Exiles as they all collected maximum points in their opening two rounds.

Division 2

Rak Rugby vs Saracens

Photo Credit: David Learman

The ten teams competing in the social quarters of Gulf Rugby will be playing their fixtures every two weeks with a straight final place play off between the top two teams in the league after nine rounds of rugby. In their opening round of Division 2 action, Muscat, Harlequins and Rak Rugby all notched up wins as did Shaheen who benefited from a forfeit win over the KnightsEagles. The other fixture to complete the round was postponed between Amblers and Sharks.

Womens Sevens Series

Dubai Hurricanes Ladies Rugby

Photo Credit: Dubai Hurricanes

It was a strong start for the hosts of Round 1 in the UAE Womens Rugby Sevens Series competition as Dubai Hurricanes claimed their first tournament win in the A-League. A new entry this year saw the ladies from Tigers win the B-League competition.

gulf rugby summer transfer list 2019

Now that the dust has settled on the opening weekend of Gulf Rugby action, we can reflect on the summer transfers that have taken place between the clubs. Who’s been leaving and who’s been joining?

The Ins and Outs of Gulf Rugby Summer Transfer Window 2019

It’s been a clear win for Dubai Tigers this season as they scooped a total of 14 new signings to boost their club numbers, with the majority of those players coming from the newly merged KnightsEagles rugby club in Dubai. This will no doubt be off the back of the Tigers gaining promotion to Premiership rugby at the end of last season.

Here’s a breakdown of numbers from rugby clubs active in the summer transfer window;

Barrelhouse Rugby ClubBarrelhouse

Transferred In: 1
Transferred Out: 0

Jebel Ali Dragons Rugby ClubDragons

Transferred In: 5
Transferred Out: 1

Dubai Exiles Rugby ClubExiles

Transferred In: 2
Transferred Out: 4

Abu Dhabi Harlequins Rugby ClubHarlequins

Transferred In: 0
Transferred Out: 3

Dubai Hurricanes Rugby ClubHurricanes

Transferred In: 1
Transferred Out: 3


Transferred In: 1
Transferred Out: 16

Abu Dhabi Saracens Rugby ClubSaracens

Transferred In: 3
Transferred Out: 0

Dubai Tigers Rugby ClubTigers

Transferred In: 14
Transferred Out: 0

Full Summer Transfer List

There was a total of twenty seven senior rugby players transferring to new clubs during the summer window. This is a rise from last year’s transfer list which hit twenty five. This summer saw an extended window up until the 31st September In alphabetical order they are listed below:

  1. Emma Ash – from KnightsEagles to Tigers
  2. Riaan Barnard – from Hurricanes to Barrelhouse
  3. Briana Billings – from KnightsEagles to Tigers
  4. Fadi Diab – from Dragons to Tigers
  5. Jarrod Eglen – from Hurricanes to Exiles
  6. Robyn Etherington – from KnightsEagles to Tigers
  7. David Gibson – from KnightsEagles to Tigers
  8. Trae Gosling – from KnightsEagles to Dragons
  9. Petillat Gwennael – from Harlequins to Saracens
  10. Oliver Johnson – from KnightsEagles to Dragons
  11. Gareth Jones – from KnightsEagles to Tigers
  12. Jason Kettle – from Hurricanes to KnightsEagles
  13. Eliabeth McGowen – from KnightsEagles to Tigers
  14. Kau Milanez – from KnightsEagles to Tigers
  15. Charlene Moore from KnightsEagles to Tigers
  16. Kini Natuna – from Harlequins to Exiles
  17. Adreanne Normandeau – from KnightsEagles to Tigers
  18. Rebecca Octave – from KnightsEagles to Tigers
  19. Daniel Owen – from KnightsEagles to Tigers
  20. Reuben Potaka – from KnightsEagles to Tigers
  21. Allan Short – from KnightsEagles to Hurricanes
  22. Rikus Swart – from Harlequins to Saracens
  23. Edward Venter – from Exiles to Dragons
  24. Gareth Venter – from Exiles to Dragons
  25. Hendrik Venter – from Exiles to Dragons
  26. Johannes Watermayer – from Exiles to Saracens
  27. Nathen Wilson – from KnightsEagles to Tigers

Source: UAERF.

Local Rugby Clubs

Are you looking for a local rugby club to play for? We have a full list, including three of our Premium listed Rugby Clubs: Amblers, Barrelhouse and Saracens.

Niall Lear new era for Harlequins

Niall Lear has Abu Dhabi Harlequins fired up as new era begins with 56-16 win over Jebel Ali Dragons

New Abu Dhabi Harlequins coach Niall Lear got his regime off to a stunning start with a 56-16 triumph over old foes Jebel Ali Dragons as the West Asia Premiership season got under way.

The Scot marvelled at the performance of his side, who ran away with the game in the latter stages, admitting that he feels things can “only get better” as the season goes on.

But Quins weren’t the highest scorers on opening night last Friday as Dubai Hurricanes stormed to a 58-10 triumph over amalgamated outfit Dubai Knights Eagles at The Sevens.

Elsewhere, promoted team Dubai Tigers – two-time champions of the UAE Conference – gave a good account of themselves in a 39-5 defeat to defending champions Bahrain, who began life without Louie Tonkin with victory.

“It was a great evening,” said Lear, who only arrived in July and is the first permanent replacement for Mike McFarlane who departed halfway through last season.

“It was great to see the boys finally in action and putting into practice some of the things we have worked on. If someone had said to me opening day we’d win 56-16 I would have bitten their hand off so as a club we are happy, but need to keep pushing.”

The former Connacht A, Scottish Schools and Scotland Under-18 international added:

“We came out of the blocks pretty quickly and scored three quick tries in the first 20 minutes. As is normally the case when you run into an early lead, we fell away a little bit from there and allowed Dragons back into the game. A combination of us looking for that miracle ball or making uncharacteristic mistakes and some class play from them. The final 20 minutes were really good and as the game opened up a bit we ran away with things.”

“So many positives to take from that kind of performance, the great thing is that it can only get better and that’s the goal for us, consistent improvement.”

“Against some other teams if we played like that we would have been punished and it’s great that the boys identified that.”

Lindsey Gibson Bahrain Rugby Forwards Coach

Bahrain’s forwards coach Lindsay Gibson paid tribute to new boys Tigers following the champions’ victory at Dubai Sports City.

“It was a tough game and a good win for us,” added the Scottish prop, who is assisting head coach Adam Wallace following Tonkin’s return back to the UK to work with Exeter Chiefs.”

“The main objective was to obviously get a bonus point and on the way to hopefully defend our league title.”

“The Tigers boys were outstanding to be fair, I thought they were brilliant. You can tell they’ve got a good base level there and they’re used to winning. They made it a real tough game for us, especially the first 30 minutes.”

Read full article from Sport360.

Aaron Persico hits the ground running 2019Italian oversees difficult opening clash against defending West Asia champions Bahrain

Just as the final whistle was blowing on Italy’s Rugby World Cup loss to South Africa on Friday, one of their celebrated former players was running out on a school playing field in Dubai.

Only 26 players in history have played more Test matches for Italy than the 56 Aaron Persico racked up between 2000 and 2006. His career span included a trip to the 2003 World Cup in Australia. Five years after finishing his professional playing career in Italy, he was back in the ranks of Dubai Tigers, West Asia rugby’s newest top-flight team.

Persico is the Dubai Tigers coach, but filled the breach in the team’s second row as they made their first appearance in the region’s premier cross-border competition. They were handed the toughest start possible, facing the defending West Asia champions Bahrain. Despite the 39-5 defeat, the league new boys showed up well at Dubai College.

The New Zealand-born player-coach played all his international career, which included Test matches at Twickenham, Lansdowne Road, and Stade de France, as a flanker. Playing in the second row against Bahrain RFC was an unusual experience for him, but he was glad of the chance.

“I haven’t played there a lot, but knowing the profile of our team, it was about working out what was best for the team,” said Persico, who played three matches when the Tigers won the UAE Conference last season.

“We had a couple of personnel changes here and there. I had played at lock a little bit here and there, but my main position is flanker. I was happy to get in there. We were pretty happy with patches of the game. It was a step into the unknown for us, and we were playing Bahrain, who have a big reputation. That was exactly what we needed, to play the best, and we can just build upon that. There are things we could have done better, but there were plays that created opportunities, and we can build on that for the rest of the season.”

Earlier on Friday, Dubai Hurricanes got the new domestic season off to a flying start as they beat Dubai Knights Eagles 58-10 at The Sevens.

Saki Naisau scored a hat-trick of tries after being introduced as a second-half substitute, as part of an onslaught that saw the home side score 47 points after the break.

In a repeat of last year’s UAE Premiership final, defending domestic champions Abu Dhabi Harlequins laid down a marker with a 56-16 win away at Jebel Ali Dragons.

Read full article from The National.

Your official guide to Gulf Rugby 2019

Here’s Your Official Guide To Gulf Rugby In 2019/20

As the 2019/20 Gulf Rugby season kicks off, we take a look ahead to whats in store for rugby fans and how all of the regional league competitions are shaping up. This summer has not been without changes though so read on to find out whats new…

west asia champions 2018-19


Holders: Bahrain (West Asia) and Harlequins (UAE)

Format: A straight league set up with all sides playing each other home and away over fourteen rounds. The champions of the West Asia Premiership will be decided between the top two teams after all league rounds are complete. Likewise, the top two UAE based outfits (discarding results against Bahrain) will play on finals day for the right to be crowned UAE Premiership Champions.

Ins and Outs: This season we see Dubai Tigers enter the top tier of Gulf Rugby after a gaining promotion at the end of last season. We see a new team, who recently merged as the KnightsEagles hoping to compete with boosted numbers this year.

Premiership Teams

Bahrain, Dragons, Exiles, Harlequins, Hurricanes, KnightsEagles, Tigers

dubai tigers conference rugby champions 2018/19

Division 1

Holders: Dubai Tigers

Format: First-off, you will see we’ve had a name change. Previously known as the UAE Conference League, the second tier of Gulf Rugby will now be referred to as Division 1. The 2019/20 season will see nine rounds of rugby played and the top four finishing teams after the final round will go into a knockout semi-final playoff to determine who play in on Finals Day 2020.

Ins and Outs: The Sharjah Wanderers are back in the mix after a one year hiatus. As mentioned above, newly merged KnightsEagles will be fielding their 2nd XV to complete the ten Division 1 rugby teams in the UAE.

Division 1 Teams

Amblers, Dragons, Exiles, Harlequins, Hurricanes, KnightsEagles, Saracens, Sharks, Tigers, Wanderers

Dragons UAE Community Champions 2018/19

Division 2

Holders: Jebel Ali Dragons

Format: Again, another name change. You will see what was once the Community League, now referred to as Division 2. The 2019/20 season will also see nine rounds of rugby played but will culminate with the top two teams in the league table going on to Finals Day to see who will be crowned Champions of Division 2.

Ins and Outs: Huge news for Oman Rugby as we welcome Muscat RFC into the third tier of Gulf Rugby. It’s been a longtime coming and we wish them all the best in their inaugural season as they join the social rugby scene. Saracens will be fielding a 2nd XV this season as the benefit from a boost in numbers over the summer.

Division 2 Teams

Amblers, Barrelhouse, Dragons, Harlequins, KnightsEagles, Muscat, Rak, Saracens, Shaheen, Sharks

dubai eagles womens sevens rugby series champions 2018 19

Womens Sevens Series

Holders: Dubai Eagles

Format: The Womens Rugby Sevens Series is the top tier league of ladies rugby in the Emirates with nine rugby clubs participating in the league. There will be eight rounds of rugby hosted by each club throughout the season. The Dubai Tigers and Firebirds rugby clubs will host a joint round.

Womens Teams

Amblers, Firebirds, Hurricanes, Harlequins, KnightsEagles, Rak, Saracens, Tigers, Wanderers

Dubai Repton School rugby tour - 2019

Repton, a prominent international school in the heart of Dubai, which recently celebrated its tenth birthday, have just finished their first ever rugby tour to Scotland in the United Kingdom. The youngsters based themselves out of Merchiston Castle school, being subjected to a multitude of training camps, team talks, fitness sessions and team building exercises throughout their stay in the 100 acre grounds, located on the edge of Colinton, a picturesque riverside village just four miles south west of the countries capital – Edinburgh, a city centre that sits in the shadow of the Pentland Hills.

Many of the Repton School touring party embarked on a rugby journey that they had never been on before. Head of Rugby, Joshua Ives summed up their journey, saying;

“The pupils dug deeper than they have ever had to before and created a rugby community of encouragement, enthusiasm and passion. There were, at times, some testing pupils on the rugby tour, but this tour certainly developed and taught them some understanding of respect and self-control, which we all know are key values to rugby. The lads who could have surrendered became leaders, those who hid away became vocal and the experienced rugby players guided and adopted others to create strong bonds within the group.”

During their time in the capital, the players were lucky enough to visit Murrayfield Stadium, the home of rugby side Edinburgh RFC, and Glasgow Warriors which both compete in the Pro 14 competition featuring teams from Scotland, Ireland, Italy, South Africa and Wales.

Other notable highlights of the tour saw the Dubai based youth rugby team beating Glasgow High School at Under 12 and Under 14 age groups and also spend time away from sport for an ascent up Arthurs Seat, an extinct volcano which is considered the main peak of the group of hills in Edinburgh.

Repton school rugby - Josh Ives Head Coach

Coach Ives added;

“The tour may be over for the Repton boys, but the season is only just beginning. It’s imperative that they now push on to continue the journey they have started and play and train with passion this season.”

Ives, who was recently unveiled as the new head coach of the Dubai Knights Eagles, ahead of the rugby clubs first official game of the season in the West Asia Premiership which kicks off on Friday, October 4th 2019.

You can read more information about finding a rugby club in Dubai, or catch up with the latest rugby fixtures and results from around the Gulf.

rugby coaching courses in Dubai

Rugby Coaching World Rugby Courses – 2019!

Fancy yourself as the next Eddie Jones, Warren Gatland…..Steve Hansen? Why not become a fully fledged 15’s  or 7s rugby coach here in the United Arab Emirates? Rugby training courses are held at various locations around the Emirates. All rugby coaching courses are ran by the UAE Rugby Federation.

To apply for any of the UAE Rugby Training and Education Courses you need to complete the pre course information within each application listed below. You can download the applications by clicking on the links provided;

  • Match Official Course
  • Level 1 Strength and Conditioning Course
  • World Rugby Level 1 Coaching 7s Rugby
  • World Rugby Level 1 Coaching 15s Rugby
  • World Rugby Level 2 Coaching 7s Rugby
  • World Rugby Level 2 Coaching 15s Rugby
  • World Rugby Level 1 Medical Course

The UAERF have a full list of course dates and locations, where you can view current courses on offer at the moment.

Still unsure? Heres five great reasons for becoming a rugby coach

  • You stay involved with the game you love, the friendships the fun and the bants
  • You feel good knowing that you’re giving something back
  • You stay fit – mentally and physically
  • You develop yourself personally and professionally
  • You inspire the next generation of players

If this sounds like your cup of tea but you still have further questions, why not get in touch with the UAERF using the form below.

3 days to go… heres 5 great bars to watch the Rugby World Cup in Dubai

With just three days to go until the Rugby World Cup kicks off in Japan which sees international rugby teams from around the world competing for the ultimate prize of being World Cup Champions 2019. For rugby fans living in Dubai, the Rugby World Cup needs to be watched in a local pub or bar, with a chilled beer in hand to cool you down through the last of the hot months before it begins to cool. So for all the best HD TV sports action this World Cup, be sure to check out our quick guide to our best pick of the bars and pubs in Dubai to watch the Rugby World Cup in 2019.

nezesaussi rugby world cup coverage

Nezesaussi Downtown

Chances are the locals at this positively antipodean rugby bar will be cheering on anybody but the English during the Rugby World Cup. Allegiance notwithstanding, this is a top place to catch any match, especially rugby, thanks to its mass of screens, wall-to-wall rugby paraphernalia, cuisine of the tri-nations and cracking deals.

Opening Times: Daily 12:00 – 02:00. Located at the Souk Al Manzil, Downtown Dubai
Contact Tel: 04 428 5888

reform social and grill - Rugby World Cup Japan

Reform Social & Grill

This family-friendly gastropub is always popular with the gang, and will be streaming all the games live, during which fans can get a bucket of five hops for Dhs110, while enjoying a two-one-deal on all burgers. It’s also not a bad spot for parents to enjoy the scrum while the kids tuck into an ice cream.

Opening Times: Sun-Wed 08:00 – 00:00. The Lakes, Emirates Living District
Contact Tel: 04 454 2638

Barasti rugby coverage 2019


With a giant LED screen, Barasti brings you all the very best in sporting entertainment, and boasts more TV screens than most of the sports bars in Dubai, just to make sure you get to watch what you came for! They will be broadcasting all the action live from the Japan Rugby World Cup and everything in between! Daily drinks deals include the new ‘Drinks Exchange’ deal, which sees prices go all over the shop when Wednesdays come rolling around. Prices fluctuate based entirely on demand – the more popular a drink is, the more expensive it will become, and the less popular (you can see where we’re going with this) the cheaper it becomes.

Opening Times: Sun-Wed 10:00 – 01:30; Thu-Fri 10:00 – 03:00, Sat 09:00 – 01:30. Located at Le Méridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina, Al Sufouh
Contact Tel: 04 318 1313

crown and lion Japan Rugby World Cup 2019

Crown & Lion

This old-school English pub that’s just the most typical pub’s pub. It does the basics well, with reasonably priced drinks, bar sports and a bucket load of screens dotted about showing the rugby, as well as a darts board and pool table for anyone looking to bring the competition to reality. The venue is laid-back and it’s reliably busy whenever there’s a match on making it a top place to watch the ruggas.

Opening Times: Daily 11:00 – 03:00. Located at the Byblos Hotel, Barsha Heights
Contact Tel: 04 448 8000

Nell Gwynne Rugby Bars Dubai

Nell Gwynne

English pub, Welsh name. Pick your allegiance, and head on in. It’s a proper old-school pub, in fact it’s so old-school it’s positively medieval looking, but it’s cracking fun. It has bar sports, lots of actual sport on the multiple high definition television screens and a properly homely vibe. Every Saturday and Sunday you can get a cracking roast for Dhs52 and during all live matches you can get a bucket of six select hops for Dhs136 – it’s perfect for the kick-off.

Opening Times: Daily 12:00 – 02:45. Located at the Marina Byblos Hotel, Dubai Marina
Contact Tel: 04 448 8222

Peter Henderson - Director of Rugby at Abu Dhabi Saracens 2019

Saracens aim to kick off their 2019/20 campaign with a welcomed boost of new coaches, players and improved club facilities.

Following their refocused 2018/19 season, members within the walls of Abu Dhabi Saracens have seen the club move into the 2019/20 season well ahead of schedule. Director of Rugby and Head Coach, Peter Henderson has admitted its all been extremely positive.

He explains,

“When I took over the role two years ago, I was more or less thrown into it. That first year was about survival, I can’t deny it. We needed a change of direction with respect to how we did things, who we were and what we were about. That included some tough decisions, which resulted in a new four year plan. Firstly, to reduce to a single team and bring back our traditional rugby values. I was planning on growing the club back to two teams by the 2020/21 rugby season, but in light of the unprecedented influx of new players, as well new coaches, we are proud to be in a position to extend our club back to it’s original two teams earlier than planned.”

“Some days you’re the pigeon and others, you’re the statue.”

Last season, Saracens played in the UAE Conference League, now known as the UAE Division 1, winning eleven out of their thirteen games and narrowly missing out on a semi final place to Al Ain Amblers, who finished higher in the pool B group.

“It was a bitter pill to swallow. Some days you’re the pigeon and others, you’re the statue. The Dubai Tigers were worthy winners, as were all teams who went in to the final series. We have full respect for the competition structure and all of our opponents. This year is a different structure* and we’re expecting to deliver some exciting rugby to the competition. We’re incredibly proud to be able to field teams in both UAE Division 1 and UAE Division 2.”

Photo credit: Grant Winter

Reports show that numbers at training have continued to rise during pre season, which has led to the club’s decision to enter a second team into the lower Division 2 competition. When asked about the decision to enter a second side, new Chairman, Joe Cervantes said,

“With more than enough players for one team, I proposed to the committee that we simply cannot deny players who train and pay their subs the chance to play. Sarries exists to grow rugby in Abu Dhabi and the UAE in the style and traditions that only a rugby club can. We’ll always welcome players of any ability. Gulf Rugby Management have been very supportive as well and we’re proud of where we’ve come from these past few years.”

New coaching staff

Saracens welcome three new assistant coaches to their backroom staff for the 2019/20 season. Jason Brown from South Wales, who brings with him experience as a successful Head Coach of the Combined Services for the UK Military and other top level RAF and Military teams as both a player and coach. Steve Da Maré joins the club from Belgium where he played for the national team and later went on to coach at national level Colts and Ladies. Finally, Farrel Jacobs joins the coaching team as a retired Sarries first team player and now the club’s forwards coach.

saracens women's rugby

After finishing in the bottom half of the ladies rugby Sevens Series last year, the club will once again be entering a Ladies Team into this years’ competition. Coaches Luca Mene said,

“Our ladies team has a great mix of experienced players and newcomers – but it’s the atmosphere they bring to the club that’s what is really remarkable. We’re going from strength to strength again this year.”

Based at Al Ghazal Golf Club, Abu Dhabi Saracens train every Monday and Wednesday nights from 19:00 until 20:30. Al Ghazal has also undergone big improvements over the summer. The pitch has had all new lighting fixtures replaced and the rugby pitch levelled, ready for the start of the season.

Anyone interested in joining the club can do so by enquiring on their Saracens Rugby profile page.

*Gulf Rugby Management have dropped the split tables this season instead opting for a single league structure.

Ghaith Jalajel - Asia Rugby

Jalajel Lands New Regional Development Officer Role

Asia Rugby’s commitment to invest in growing the game and supporting its member unions, got a boost when they today announced that Jordanian expat, Ghaith Jalajel as the new West Asia Regional Development Officer to support unions in West Asia with effect from 1st September 2019.

Speaking on his new role Jalajel said:

“I am fortunate to have filled the West Asia Development Consultant role from 2014 – 2018, and I am familiar with the role requirements. My main role is working with National Governing Bodies in West Asia and provide support to their Development, Strategic and Training and Education plans. There is a small focus on domestic competitions but more from a compliance point of view than running the competitions on their behalves.”

Jalajel moved to the Emirates from Jordan back in 2004 where he worked as an Arabic speaking development officer for the Arabian Gulf Rugby Football Union (now UAERF) where he supported the Qatari National 7’s team during the 2006 Asian Games in doha. His role quickly developed as the AGRFU transitioned into what we now know as the UAE Rugby Federation, which saw him progress through various positions with Jordan Rugby Union (manager) and Harlequins rugby club in Abu Dhabi (director of rugby).

His main involvement with Asia Rugby started back in 2014 where he was appointed West Asia Development Officer where he held the position for 4 years before making the move over to Emirates where he assisted in the setup of Gulf Rugby Management (GRM) working as Competitions Manager.

Now Jalajel is back in his familiar role at Asia Rugby, seeing him work under the guidance of Ben van Rooyen, who left the Emirates to work in his current post as Asia Rugby’s Rugby Development Consultant.

Having worked closely with Ghaith, Yalla Rugby and the wider rugby community would like to wish him all the best in his new role.

mens gulf rugby fixtures announced

Jump Right In…

Mens 2019/20 Rugby Fixtures

It’s been a long hot summer for all rugby clubs this year as pre-season training comes to an end and the focus switches to the first round of Gulf Rugby.

Due to the season kicking off slightly later this season, we won’t see any action until the beginning of October, so each team will have a good few weeks of extra training under their belts before they begin their 2019/20 rugby campaign.

West Asia Premiership – Round 1 Preview

October the 4th will see the West Asia Premiership kick off with the newly merged Dubai KnightsEagles taking on the Dubai Hurricanes down at Dubai Sports City.

Newly promoted Dubai Tigers will be thrown straight into the deep end of West Asia rugby with their first league fixture against the 2018/19 Champions – Bahrain at Dubai College.

The final game of Round 1 sees a repeat of last years UAE Premiership final between Jebel Ali Dragons and Abu Dhabi Harlequins. The Quins will be looking to continue their good form, having only lost one game in the Premiership last season as they went on to win the league.

Dubai Exiles will have an extra week of prep time as they sit this round out with a bye.

UAE Division 1 – Round 1 Preview

Previously known as the UAE Conference League, the UAE Division 1 will also kick off on the 4th October.

The above mentioned merged KnightsEagles 2s will get things underway with their first match against last years’s finalists – Al Ain Amblers. Dragons 2s take on Harlequins 2s, Dubai Sharks face off against the Hurricanes 2s, Tigers 2s will play the Saracens and for the final fixture of Round 1 we welcome back the Sharjah Wanderers after a 1 year hiatus from domestic rugby, as they take on the Dubai Exiles 2s.

UAE Division 2 – Round 1 Preview

This year we also see a name change for the previously known UAE Community League, now called the UAE Division 2 which kicks off on the 4th October.

The Sharks 2s play Amblers 2s, Saracens 2s host RAK Rugby up in Abu Dhabi, Harlequins 3s take on current Community Final winners Dragons 3s, Shaheen face KnightsEagles 3s and we welcome for the first time Muscat Rugby Club as the play last years unbeaten league toppers, Barrelhouse.

We’re still five weeks out before the season officially kicks off, so expect some time changes to what is already pencilled in for the fixtures.


Enver Johns - new coach of Dubai Sharks

Left to right: Mike Quinn – Sharks Chairman, Enver Johns – coach, Matt Laubscher – Head Coach

Enver Johns – Sharks Appoint New Coach for 2019/20

The Dubai Sharks RFC has appointed Enver Johns as their new coach, joining fellow South African Matt Laubscher.

Enver has moved to Dubai with his wife and their young son, having lived in Johannesburg for over a decade.  Originally from Durban, Enver is a Fly-Half/Inside Centre and has played for Natal in the Craven Week tournament which is a school boys tournament held every year in South Africa, as well as spells for the Natal Sharks Academy, and Connacht Rugby Club in Galway, Ireland. He holds his rugby coaching certification from the Lions Rugby Union.

The newly appointed coach, Enver said:

“I am approaching my new role at the Sharks with great excitement. I am keen to learn all about the rugby culture in the Middle East and looking forward to contributing towards the success of the Dubai Sharks. My hopes for the upcoming season are that we stay injury-free as a squad and continue to build on the past successes of the team. I want to bring a strong team spirit to the squad and make sure that everyone enjoys their time at the Sharks.”

Pre-season training has just started for the Sharks, now taking place every Sunday and Tuesday at 7:30pm at North London Collegiate School near Meydan in Dubai.

Club Chairman Mike Quinn welcomed Enver to the club, saying:

“Its fantastic that Enver has joined the Sharks Family, and we all welcome him to our club. We are all looking forward to working with him alongside our Head Coach Matt Laubsher. Enver brings a wealth of rugby knowledge and experience from around the world, combined with his passion for player strength and conditioning, has the skills that will assist every player in achieving their goals and reaching their true potential, both on and off the pitch, while at the same time helping the club to grow again.”

yalla protein sports nutrition partnership

Yalla Rugby have recently launched a partnership with the newly founded, UAE based Sports Nutrition brand – Yalla Protein

Affordable Sports Nutrition now available in the UAE

The partnership brings Yalla Rugby – the home of UAE expat rugby, together with recently launched Yalla Protein, suppliers of high quality, great tasting and affordable sports nutrition.

Through the partnership both parties will tap into each other’s marketing and operational platforms and work side by side to increase the awareness and contribute further to the success of two UAE born businesses.

Dallen Olson, Managing Director of Yalla Protein said:

“Working with Yalla Rugby makes perfect sense for Yalla Protein. They have access to a large network of amateur rugby players across the UAE who have an ongoing demand for high quality, great tasting and affordable sports nutrition products. Yalla Protein products contain the purest ingredients, which are all UAE government approved and delivered to customers within the next working day after order. We are looking forward to launching and then developing the partnership with Yalla Rugby further and supporting the UAE rugby community together.”

Discounts For Yalla Rugby Readers

Yalla Protein will provide an ongoing 15% product discount to all Yalla Rugby subscribers, which can be redeemed during checkout on the Yalla Protein website.

Alex Johnson, Founder Yalla Rugby said:

“I’m so pleased to be able to offer our loyal fans and supporters, discount on great products that have perfect synergy with the rugby community. Dallen and his team are offering a range of products that I’m very confident will do well in the Middle East. It has made perfect sense for Yalla Rugby and Yalla Protein to start a partnership so that we can continue to offer the rugby fans located in the UAE value for money.”

How do I get my discount?

To take advantage of our 15% discount on all purchases made from the Yalla Protein website, simply click the button below which will take you to the Yalla Protein website, choose your favourite sports nutrition product and then at check out apply the discount code of “yallarugby15”.

Niall Lear - Director of rugby at Abu Dhabi Harlequins

Picture courtesy of Falkirk Herald

Abu Dhabi Harlequin announce Director of Rugby

The Harlequins have announced the arrival of their new Director of Rugby as Niall Lear. Lear has an extensive knowledge of delivering top level coaching to both mini and youth rugby players as well as at seniors club level. The new DOR has played at top level club rugby and as has earned international honour’s representing Scotland.

The newly appointed Director of Rugby, Niall Lear said:

“My goal heading over to Abu Dhabi is to make the club as successful as possible both on and off the field. There will be a mixture of on and off field sessions over the summer which will allow the players to get into the best possible shape moving forward into the season.”

Niall Lear takes charge of his first coaching session at 19:00 this evening (Tuesday 23rd July) at Zayed Sports City, aiming to start pre-season training as soon as possible, despite having only been in the UAE for less that 13 hours.

Lear hopes to bring his experience and knowledge to take Abu Dhabi Harlequins to the next level of their drive towards delivering rugby to its members. Previously based in Edinburgh, Lear was House Master and Rugby Coach for the internationally renowned Merchiston Castle School where he spent three years. Prior to this he was House Master and PE Teacher for eight years at the Queen Victoria Military School in Dunblane.

Club Chairman, Andrew Cole has welcomed the new arrival saying:

“Finding a suitable Director of Rugby for a club is not always an easy task and when you are based in the Middle East it certainly add’s to the challenge. Of course there are plenty of candidates out there but to find someone who fits the Club’s ethos and can coach at a Mini/Youth level as well as Senior Men’s and Women’s rugby narrow’s down the selection pool considerably. Myself and the committee have spent over three months vetting candidates and interviewing from as far a field as the USA, New Zealand, UK, Argentina, Europe and also locally within the United Arab Emirates.”

Lear’s achievements include representing Connacht Rugby A (2008- 2009), Loughborough University 1st XV Rugby (2000-2005), Scottish Schools Rugby (2000), Scotland U18 Rugby (2001), Scotland Sevens Training Squad (2006/07), Rosslyn Park 1st XV Squad (2005/07), Glasgow Hawks 1st XV Squad (2004/5), Scottish Schools Athletics and GB U23 Athletics Team.

Cole added:

“We have taken the selection process very seriously, ensuring we make the offer to the right candidate. I believe in Niall, we have found a well balanced and experienced DOR with the right personality for the role here at Abu Dhabi Harlequins. We will fully support him in his new role and try our utmost to provide the backup he needs to excel in his role, we wish him and his family well here in Abu Dhabi.”

Mansour al Zaabi Harlequins club captain

Harlequins Club Captain – Mansour al Zaabi representing Yalla Rugby Select

One of Our Own – Quins Club Captain Mansour Al Zaabi

Another recent appointment at the Harlequins was for the first UAE National to be appointed as Club Captain – Mansour Al Zaabi.

Al Zaabi has been part of the Harlequins rugby club setup for over four years and was nominated for the role of Club Captain less than a month ago.

“It’s the club’s 50th anniversary next year it’s one of the oldest sporting clubs in the UAE and as part of its history it’s important to recognise the club’s achievements over recent years. Abu Dhabi should be proud of this successful sporting club, certainly one of the largest if not the largest sports clubs in the capital city. We’re the current UAE champions, past West Asia Champions and the most successful club in competitions over the past decade.”

Before joining the Quins the local Emirati had no previous background or any understanding about playing rugby. As well as being part of the Harlequins, Al Zaabi has also represented our very own Yalla Rugby Select squad in the 2018 Dubai Rugby Sevens.

Maurice Butler - UAE Referee

We have a Choosday Chat with UAE Referee, Maurice Butler.


Age: 36
Born: County Meath, Ireland
Referee Level: UAE Premiership

“I’d like to see what it’s like to prance about in referee kit from Baby GAP”

What do you get up to in your spare time?

Spending time with the family. I have two boys aged 2 1/2 and 1 so that’s most of my time in the pool or back garden!!

Do you have any phobias?

Bad pints of Guinness.

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

MacGyver (US TV Series), as he would know and show me what to do.

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

Telepathy, I’d love to be able to read the kids minds as they fascinate me all the time. It would also come in handy to know what the front row are thinking too.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

My wife makes a mean cookie!! And I’m prone to a bit of chocolate and ice-cream.

Do you have any hidden talents?

I would like to think I am a DIY and gardening expert. I laid the patio slabs in my back yard in Dubai.

Who or what inspired you to pick up the whistle?

After giving up playing, I was missing the game so decided to give it a try when I was living in Ireland.

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

I think it has to be any South African. Tony Duminy comes to mind or Jaco on the golf course.

What’s the toughest thing about reffing?

Staying focused as it can be mentally challenging.

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

Probably Eugene Deegan to see what it’s like to prance about in referee kit from baby gap!!

Do you have any advice for people looking to get into referring?

Give it a go as it’s the best seat in the house. And you can meet an amazing team of referees in the UAE and globally from events like the Dubai Rugby Sevens.

What was the last takeaway you ordered?

A Thai from The Noodle box in Motor city.

What industry do you work in?

I work for Saab in the surveillance industry.

How’s life in Dubai?

Well, my wife and I moved here for a two – three years… that was seven years ago! And we now have two kids who were both born here in the UAE. So it’s a lot better than expected. We love the quality of life in Dubai!!

Summer Touch League Starting Soon

Heartbeat Sports Summer Touch League will be starting up again on the 14th July at Nord Anglia School in Dubai.

The eight week competition will run every Sunday evening from 7pm until 9pm and will be played on the 4G pitches at NAS School.

Team registration is AED 3150

For more information and details, contact

wanderers rugby club sharjah

The once champions of UAE Conference Rugby – Sharjah Wanderers will make a welcome return to Gulf Rugby next season and be back amongst the rest of the UAE Conference rugby clubs.

After a twelve month absence from competitive rugby due to player departures it has been announced that the club are recruiting once again and will be competing in the Conference again next season. The club were forced to bow out of the 2018/19 rugby season with the then Chairman Shane Breen revealing Wanderers had lost half of their players from the previous season over the summer of 2018, leaving them with the tough decision of withdrawing the senior mens squad. Their last competitive game was against the Dubai Tigers in the final of the UAE Conference league where they lost to an extra time golden try in a thriller of a match.

Newly appointed Chairman – Chris Paton has replaced Breen and will oversee a new committee put in place to take the rugby club forward. Pre-season training will be starting on August 27th, down at King’s School Al Barsha and will hopefully see steady numbers returning back to the club.

Those players wishing to join the Sharjah Wanderers can get in touch directly with by clicking here.

rugby club concussion management Dubai

Is your rugby club concussion ready?

Ask Yourself

  • Does your club have an up to date concussion policy in place for the upcoming season?
  • Have you set a date for concussion training and dissemination of information?
  • Have you set a date for baseline testing?

Some Stats to Think About

  • UPANDRUNNING saw 122 suspected concussion cases in 2018/19
  • Of those 24% were not concussions
  • Of the ones that were 8% developed persistent concussive symptoms or other complications related to the injury
  • The Average number of physiotherapy sessions is 2.5

Education is key

It is important to understand how to effectively manage concussions in sport and in general activity. Research is advancing every day UPANDRUNNING strive to follow the current accepted guidelines and latest research relating to concussion management.

Get in touch

To find out more visit Up And Running Dubai or get in touch with Tania Mayne on 04 518 5400.

unveiling of the dubai knights eagles rugby club

Eagles and Knights Set To Merge

A press conference was held this morning to announce an exciting merge between the Arabian Knights and Dubai Eagles rugby clubs, both of whom are based at the Dubai Sports City’s Rugby Park ground. In attendance were Knights Chairwoman, Louise Palmer, Eagles Director of Rugby, Sean Carey, Secretary General of the UAE Rugby Federation, Qais Abdulla al Dhalai, CFO of Dubai Sports City, Vijay Sajjanhar and Consultant for DSC, Jeff O’Brian as they officially announced the merge.

dubai knights eagles

The new rugby club will be called the Dubai Knights Eagles

Both clubs share the same goals of developing rugby here in the UAE and are hoping for a tremendous boost by the merge, as they will now be able to offer the full spectrum of community rugby from grass roots, right the way through to senior rugby both male and female. The Knights bring a strong mini/youth rugby section to the party and the Eagles bring top flight Premiership rugby and an incredibly strong womens rugby section as well as mini and junior players.

Collectively the new Dubai Knights Eagles Rugby Club will have over 500 members helping the club move on to bigger and better things next season.

Chairwoman, Louise Palmer said;

“I founded the Knights over 10 years ago with my late husband and have a passion for the rugby community and the support here at Sports City has been amazing. So here I am 10 years later looking for stability more than anything and for the legacy of the club to go on with the ethos and the ethics that we’ve always built where everybody gets to play rugby.” 

Director of Rugby, Sean Carey said;

“For me I see this as a huge potential for growth in the region for rugby. As you know, the Knights have been around a while and they’ve got a great junior setup. The merge is perfect with the different teams coming together. The ultimate goal is the development of rugby and thats also the vision of Dubai Sports City and the UAE Rugby Federation’s vision also.”