UAE Expat Rugby News

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.”

UAE Rugby Club of The Year

And the winner of the 2019 Club of the Year is…

Your votes have been counted and we can finally announce who is your 2019, Yalla Rugby ‘Club of The Year’. Congratulations to all four teams who made it to this year’s nominations. It’s been a close contest and we’ve had plenty of players, fans and friends of each of the clubs casting their vote since we announced the nominations of Club of The year last week.

It’s with great pleasure that we can announce the winner of the 2019 Yalla Rugby ‘Club of The Year’ is…

Dragons RFC - 2019 Club of The Year

Dragon’s chairman, Stuart Quinn’s response to winning the award was;

“It’s great to have been voted for and to take home ‘Team of The Year’. The Jebel Ali Dragons is a club for all people and I think we tick all of the boxes when it comes to Expat Rugby. It’s a family first setup, a huge support network for people and a fantastic rugby club to be involved in. Honours were spread around the clubs this year, which is great to see. From 1st XV to 2nd XV to 3rd XV to Vets, to Mini/Youth. I think the current Dragons setup is how it should be done to maximize enjoyment. With a team across all three leagues in a semi final or above is always a great barometer for how we sit as a rugby club in the Gulf. We’re looking forward to growing next year again.”

Poll Results

Congratulations to the Dragons on behalf Yalla Rugby!!

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:

This poll has ended. To view the results click below

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 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.”

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

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 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)

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!