UAE Expat Rugby News

gulf rugby roundup week 12

This week’s UAE Rugby action from across all three leagues.

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abu dhabi saracens rugby

Team of the Week – Abu Dhabi Saracens

It has been well documented that 2018 was a difficult year for a side which were West Asia Champions as recently as 2015. Results on the field saw demotion to the UAE Conference at the end of last season but struggles off it have really tested the resilience of the club. The early signs are that 2019 might see Sarries turn a corner in their rebuilding phase. They have gone three wins from three in January, conceding only 12 points in the process and two of those matches coming away from home. Locked in a battle with Al Ain Amblers to secure a playoff spot, they are building momentum at the right time of the season and bringing much needed confidence back to Al Ghazal.

dubai exiles vs hurricanes 2019

West Asia Premiership

Dubai Exiles were the big winners in this round of matches, claiming a hard fought local derby win at The Sevens over Dubai Hurricanes 32-27. That lifts them to third in the standings as they jostle for playoff spots along with Canes and Jebel Ali Dragons. Dragons themselves were edged out at home by Abu Dhabi Harlequins 29-25, a win which sees Quins all but guaranteed second spot with Bahrain clear at the top.


dubai tigers rugby uae


The game of the week in the Conference also came at The Sevens and it was another agonising defeat for the home club with Canes 2s edged out 46-44 in the last minute of a tumultuous free scoring contest with unbeaten Dubai Tigers 1s. The three top 1s sides all recorded wins over their Premiership second team opponents with Al Ain Amblers cantering past Quins 2s and Abu Dhabi Saracens travelling down to Jebel Ali and recording an impressive 27-5 away win. Conversely, amongst the sides towards the bottom of their respective groups, it was the second strings who claimed the points with DSC Eagles 2s and Dubai Exiles 2s claiming only their second and third wins of the campaign respectively.


rak rugby vs al ain amblers


Nearing the end of the regular season in the Community League and just two fixtures were completed this weekend. Dragons 3s maintained their unbeaten record in sweeping past Tigers 2s to keep up in the two horse race at the top with Barrelhouse. The mid-table clash between Amblers 2s and RAK Rugby went the way of the northern emirate side 36-19, a result which sees them climb back to what is almost now their customary third place in the standings.

Article by: Birthday Boy Huw Harrow

Mike McFarlane Harlequins

As Abu Dhabi Harlequins and Gulf Rugby bid farewell to Head Coach, Mike McFarlane, after his shock resignation last week, we dedicate this week’s ChoosdayChat to the quintuple trophy winner.


Age: 33
Born: Kent, England
Club: Abu Dhabi Harlequins
Position: Head Coach
Height: 188cm
Weight: 100kg

“The passion that boy puts into his rugby is nothing compared to what he puts into his singing”

Do you have any nicknames?

‘Mikey’ is the only nickname that has ever really stuck.

When you’re not coaching, what do you like to do in your spare time?

I spend time with the littl’un, be it swimming, the beach or doing jigsaws. I also like Keeping fit and getting outdoors, but I especially enjoy eating great food and BBQing.

What do you miss most about England?

Proper butcher’s sausages! You just can’t get them like back home.

Do you have any hidden talents?

It’s been a while now, but I used to play flute and saxophone.

What was the last takeaway you ordered?

KFC… I’m guilty for a Twister!!

Who do you think will shine as a coach in Japan this year?

Gregor Townsend with Scotland and Warren Gatland on his last outing for Wales: both have the draws, squads and potential to push into the knockout stages of the World Cup.

What’s been your favourite moment as a coach?

The 2016/17 season, winning everything when the league was at it’s strongest. About 4 teams could have won every trophy that year but the boys were phenomenal, in quality and depth, both 1st and 2nd XV.

Whats your favourite punisher drill for the boys?

I’m not a fan of flogging the boys but one which is a killer in terms of skills under fatigue is the “Fiji touch 4v2 drill”.

Who’s the best dancer/singer at the Quins?

Muneeb Galant…the passion that boy puts into his rugby is nothing compared to what he puts into singing “Senses” in the sheds with a few shimmys…if he’s not recording it all.

If you could be one of the Quins players when you were playing, who would it be?

Oooo…I’d take Barry Dwyer’s wheels, Brian Geraghty’s chip n’ chase, Andy Shields lineout calls and Semp’s distribution…oh and Luke Stevenson‘s turnover skills haha

How’s life in Abu Dhabi?

It’s a great lifestyle with some fantastic opportunities and over 8 years I’ve been lucky enough to attend a range of brilliant events and meet some top quality people.

What are the best things about the being part of Abu Dhabi Harlequins rugby club?

The “One Club” culture has been epic to build and see flourish. For me, the players – hands down the best lads on and off the pitch you could hope for. It’s always been a pleasure singing with the boys.

Who would be your three dream dinner guests?

For sports chat around the table, I’d say Freddie Flintoff, Anthony Joshua and Johnny Wilkinson. For a general chat I’d say Sir David Attenborough, James Corden and Sir Richard Branson.

What would you like to achieve outside of rugby?

Travel as much of the world as possible, experience more cultures and learn more languages.

More On Mike McFarlane

McFarlane oversaw the Harlequins’ rejuvenation in UAE rugby and memorably steered the club to a clean sweep of major trophies. The quintuple, back in the 2016/17 season, included lifting the West Asia Premiership, West Asia Cup, UAE Premiership, Dubai Sevens and Asia Rugby Western Clubs Champions League titles, after which McFarlane revealed he had considered leaving for the second time, having first entertained the thought in the summer of 2016.

Set to leave the UAE due to personal reasons, his resignation midway through the season arrived as a shock to a club who had grown used to success under his coaching. No other club in the region has won more trophies than Harlequins in the time since McFarlane succeeded Jeremy Manning as the team’s coach back in 2015.

Andy Cole, the Harlequins chairman, said:

“Mike will be sorely missed at Harlequins. The guy has been completely dedicated to the club and rugby in general and has been a great ambassador for us and to UAE rugby. He was a great player and coach and it will be difficult to find a replacement like him. We wish him well for the future and thank him for all he’s done.”

Latest Gulf Rugby News 2019

More action this week from the West Asia Premiership and UAE Conference rugby league.

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Amblers vs Dragons

Team of the Week – Al Ain Amblers

Al Ain coming away from Jebel Ali with a comprehensive 45-21 win, over a side that had previously lost on just one occasion this season might be seen as the upset of the round. Though that would overlook the fact that the Amblers were only a whisker away from toppling league leaders Tigers last week and seem to have run into a rich vein of form at just the right time of the season. If they can hold off Abu Dhabi Saracens for a playoff spot, they will be a threat in the knockout stages.

eagles vs hurricanes uae premiership rugby match

West Asia Premiership

On paper this week’s main event was the top of the table clash between Abu Dhabi Harlequins and Bahrain, but with the away side winning in irresistible fashion, narrowly missing out of putting 50pts on Quins, the drama ended up being found elsewhere. DSC Eagles suffered a heart-breaking loss to Dubai Hurricanes, a match that is becoming a real rivalry in Dubai. Canes clinched it 27-25 with a last second try in spite of a large period of stout Eagles goal line resistance, leaving the hosts rooted to the foot of the table and still without a win. It was just as close fought in the other Dubai derby between Jebel Ali Dragons and Dubai Exiles, the Exiles claiming a four point win which moves them up to third in the West Asia standings.


saracens vs eagles conference rugby 2019


All change in the fixture lists at Conference level as sides in the 1s group and 2s group played against one another for the first time. The top 1s sides recorded some impressive results with Abu Dhabi Saracens keeping pace with the aforementioned Amblers thanks to an away win 49-7 over DSC Eagles 2s. Hurricanes 2s were the other big winners of the round, with their comfortable away win at Arabian Knights coupled with Dragons 2s loss seeing the Canes take over as the top ranked 2s side and gain pole position for a favourable playoff draw. The Sharks and Exiles forfeited their games, giving both Tigers 1s and Quins 2s easy bonus point wins.

Article by: Huw Harrow

Latest Gulf Rugby News 2019

News from the first round of Gulf Rugby action in 2019 with fixtures taking place across all three men’s divisions last weekend.

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bahrain rugby club team of the week January 2019

Team of the Week – Bahrain

A week where fixtures largely went according to the formbook contained no stand out results with high scoring home wins largely the order of the day. West Asia Premiership leaders Bahrain are the major exception, travelling to The Sevens to face a resurgent Hurricanes still buoyant from their Dubai 7s triumph last month, they dismantled the home side to win 44-19 claiming a bonus point and maintaining their cushion over Abu Dhabi Harlequins ahead of next week’s top of the table clash in the capital.

dragons vs eagles lineout jan 2019

West Asia Premiership

Bahrain and Abu Dhabi Harlequins both kept up the pace at the top of the table with high scoring bonus point wins. With Bahrain dispatching a Hurricanes side who came in to the week in third place, the gap between the top two and the rest has in fact widened further. A win for Jebel Ali Dragons in a high scoring 54-31 encounter with Dubai Eagles moves them up in to third, leapfrogging both Canes and Dubai Exiles. We can expect to see plenty of jostling for position between these three in the season’s closing weeks.

The West Asia playoff race is now looking clear as Dragons, Exiles and Canes all fight amongst themselves for 3rd and 4th places in the table to secure playoff action, all signs point towards January 18th’s crunch fixture at Zayed Sports City between Harlequins and Bahrain acting as this year’s title decider.


abu dhabi saracens conference rugby 2019


The last round of initial group fixtures before crossover matches between 1s and 2s sides contained no surprises. Harlequins and Dragons 2s racked up comfortable home wins over Exiles and Eagles 2s respectively. It was ‘must win’ territory for Quins as they eased past Exiles 32-8, still sit 10pts behind Hurricanes 2s, who had a bye week, and mathematically at least still in the race for a playoff place as a result. Amongst the 1s group, Abu Dhabi Saracens put together a convincing win over Arabian Knights, who, despite being yet to register a win this season, deserve credit for continuing to compete week in week out. The real drama came over at Al Ain Amblers where Dubai Tigers having gone all of 2018 unbeaten, nearly came unstuck at this year’s first hurdle but held on to edge past the home side 22-19.


barrelhouse vs rak rugby


Wins for Barrelhouse and Dragons 3s maintained both sides’ 100% records and further increased the likelihood that they will meet on finals day to decide the title. In falling to league leaders Barrelhouse 43-7, RAK Rugby slip behind Tigers 2s in the chasing pack. After a difficult start to the season, Tigers have registered three wins on the bounce, edging out local rivals Dubai Sharks 2s 26-25, and could yet sneak into contention if they can win away at the Dragons at the end of the month. There were over 100 points scored in the weekend’s other fixture in Al Ain where the Amblers 2s defeated Shaheen 67-36. Consolation for the Shaheen comes in the form of a 4 try bonus point and their first league points of the 2018/19 campaign.


Top Point Scorers

If you’re looking to see who’s got the latest ‘bragging rights’ in our Top Scorers table, then head straight over to our Top 10 Stats page.

Article by: Huw Harrow

gulf rugby roundup 2019

Gulf Rugby returns this weekend after the winter break. With plenty to be decided across all levels of the game – we outline the titles on offer at the business end of the season, and which rugby clubs stand to be in with a shot of each.

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bahrain rugby club

West Asia Premiership

Up for grabs: Six rounds of fixtures remain with the top four teams then going into a playoff to see who will make it to the Final of the league and crowned West Asia Champions.

In the Hunt: Bahrain and Abu Dhabi Harlequins

It might seem a little early to be calling this a two horse race, but the form showed by these two towards the end of 2018 would mean it would require a sizeable collapse if one of them is not to be lifting the West Asia Rugby title this season. While there are six rounds of fixtures to go and plenty of time for form to change, third place Exiles are already 14 points off the pace, which looks an insurmountable gap. As such, the January 18th clash between Quins and leaders Bahrain at Zayed Sports City has ‘title decider’ written all over it.


UAE Premiership

Up for grabs: Fixtures not including Bahrain also count towards UAE Premiership standings, with the top four sides facing off in playoff to determine who plays on finals day.

In the Hunt: Abu Dhabi Harlequins, Dubai Hurricanes, Dubai Exiles, Jebel Ali Dragons

Luckily for the rest of the teams in the top flight there is still plenty to play for in the form of the UAE Premiership. With Bahrain out of the picture, Quins 14 point advantage over second placed Hurricanes gives them one foot in the final but the remaining place is very much up for grabs. Only four points separate Hurricanes, Dragons and last season’s winners, Exiles so fixtures between these sides will carry extra edge in the season’s closing weeks.


UAE Conference

Up for grabs: The two best 1s and 2s sides respectively will qualify for semis and a chance to make it to finals day.

In the Hunt: Dubai Tigers, Abu Dhabi Saracens, Al Ain Amblers, Hurricanes 2s, Dragons 2s

Conference sides find a shake up with their remaining fixture list with sides playing each other across the ‘1s Group’ and the ‘2s Group’. Semi-finalists will still consist of the top two from each respective group however. Amongst the 1s, defending champions Dubai Tigers remain unbeaten in this campaign and look set to make the knockouts with Abu Dhabi Saracens and Al Ain Amblers battling it out for the second spot. Hurricanes and Dragons 2s have broken clear in the 2s standings with Harlequins a further 13 points back so look unlikely to contest the knockouts.


UAE Community

Up for grabs: At the moment, the top two teams are playing for a place at finals day, but there is still talk of a possible playoff between the top four teams.

In the Hunt: Barrelhouse, Dragons 3s, RAK, Harlequins 3s

At the halfway point, two sides remain unbeaten, last year’s runners up Dragons 3s and the newcomers Barrelhouse. The two sides meet on February 8th in what could be a final dress rehearsal, but RAK and Quins 3s have a shot at breaking into the top two if they can pull off an upset in coming games. With teams only having 3 or 4 games remaining, each fixture is crucial for those competing at the top end.


UAE Womens Sevens Series

Up for grabs: Four additional one-day tournaments with results from each going towards deciding the cumulative Sevens League Champions.

In the Hunt: DSC Eagles and Dubai Hurricanes

Eagles Ladies remain unbeaten this season and boast a 6pt cushion at the top of the standings having come out on top in all three tournaments thus far as well as claiming back to back Dubai 7s crowns. It would take a brave person to bet against further dominance from the girls in green, but if any side is likely to break the stranglehold, Hurricanes look the most likely. They have finished runner up in each round so far and also took the Eagles to extra time in a dramatic Dubai 7s semi-final, so will be looking for a change of fortune in the coming weeks.

Article by: Huw Harrow

uae rugby national school boys 2018

UAE Rugby ranked 5th in World Rugby’s ‘Get Into Rugby’ youth development programme

A recently published ‘Get Into Rugby’ report from World Rugby and Asia Rugby, highlighting Associate Nations, has ranked the UAE as 5th in the world for rugby participation at youth level.

Earlier this year, UAE Rugby entered into a landmark agreement with the UAE Ministry of Education which saw World Rugby’s ‘Get Into Rugby’ (GIR) programme form part of the Physical Education curriculum in Emirati schools across the UAE.

In 2018, 107,001 boys and girls were involved in UAE Rugby’s Player Pathway Programme, 39% of which are girls. Currently UAE Rugby takes the sport into 208 schools across the UAE.

Our agreement with the Ministry of Education is a first for the region

ministry of education

Qais Al Dhalai, Secretary General UAE Rugby Federation said; “Our agreement with the Ministry of Education is a first for the region and undoubtedly cements UAE’s position as a leader in development and sustainability of the grassroots game across both the GCC, and Asia. This is evident through our being recognised and being ranked as 5th in the world, an achievement we are very proud of. Asia Rugby’s ‘Asia 1 Million Project’ has just reached its mark, and we are delighted to have been a major contributor to this achievement.”

“We remain extremely grateful to the Ministry, and for the ongoing support of our GIR – Player Pathway Programme partner; HSBC, as a result of their unwavering support rugby will continue to grow at grassroots.” added Al Dhalai.

Gulf Rugby Roundup

Our final roundup of 2018 as we find out who will be heading in to Christmas top of the tree in the Premiership and the Conference leagues

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Dubai Tigers

Team of the Week – Dubai Tigers 1s

A routine victory for the Tigers over an Arabian Knights outfit that are still looking for their first win this season would not normally attract our attention. But in defeating the Knights in the final round of games to be played in 2018, Tigers 1s have achieved the rare distinction of going a whole calendar year unbeaten. Their run stretches back to last season’s Conference title winning side and this form has carried across into this season as they sit comfortably top of their Conference Pool with 7 wins out of 7. The closest they have come to defeat was back in the Conference final with Sharjah Wanderers, which finished as a draw in normal time before Tigers snatched it in sudden death. A minor blemish on what is a significant milestone achievement.

harlequins vs hurricanes

West Asia Premiership

The weekend’s big clash came at The Sevens with an immediate rematch of the Dubai 7s final between Dubai Hurricanes and Abu Dhabi Harlequins. This time it was the away side who gained revenge for their 7s loss with a bonus point 43-21 win. That keeps Quins hot on the tails of Bahrain who dispatched Jebel Ali Dragons and go into the new year with a four point lead at the top. Dubai Exiles ran out victors at the end of a thriller over DSC Eagles, with their city rivals leading 20-12 at halftime and almost snatching the victory in the last play of the game with a try in the corner only for a foot in touch leaving them with the consolation of a credible losing bonus point and a final score of 23-29.

The title race at the top now looking clear as a 14 point gap having opened up between third place Exiles and Quins in second spot, all signs point towards January 18th’s crunch fixture at Zayed Sports City between Harlequins and Bahrain acting as this year’s title decider.


saracens rugby players abu dhabi


With Tigers running away with the lead in their pool, Abu Dhabi Saracens kept themselves in touch with Al Ain Amblers in the battle for the second qualification spot thanks to a decisive 57-10 away win over Dubai Sharks. Hurricanes 2s will be the happiest of the sides in the other pool, as they leapfrog Dragons 2s courtesy of a 20-7 triumph at home to Quins 2s. Both Dragons and Hurricanes have opened up a cushion in the top two places with Quins slipping away and Exiles 2s earning only their second win of the season over fellow back marker Eagles 2s.

Article by: Huw Harrow

Jonathan Taylor Abu Dhabi Saracens rugby player

We have a quick Choosday Chat with Abu Dhabi Saracens Flanker and club captain, Jonathan Taylor


Age: 30
Born: East London, South Africa
Club: Abu Dhabi Saracens
Position: Flanker
Height: 182cm
Weight: 85kg

“You would swear he is colourblind”

Do you have any nicknames?

I just get Jonny or JT. My mates aren’t very creative people when it comes to nicknames.

What’s your guilty pleasure?


Do you have any phobias?


What do you miss most about your home country

Obviously my family but also a proper beach with waves.

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

Dr Jordan B Petersen (a Canadian professor of psychology at the University of Toronto)

Who or what inspired you to play rugby?

My father, he was the coach of my school’s 1st XV so rugby was always part of our household and just a way of life. Some of my earliest memories are playing indoor knee rugby against my brother and inevitably breaking something.

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

Francesco… Everyone wants to be Francesco, some have even tried…. Have you seen him?

Who are the jokers at Sarries?

There’s a few contenders here but it would have to go to Morne, Jakes the snake and our biggest supporter Riad. I don’t think I can elaborate on this publicly.

Who has the worst Dress sense at the club?

Without a doubt it’s Stallone, the guy can’t even wear Sarries gear without clashing colours somehow. You would swear he is colourblind.

How’s life in Abu Dhabi?

Every year seems to be getting better. My wife and I are now expecting our first child as well, so I couldn’t be happier.

What was the last takeaway you ordered?

It was a KFC Boxmaster.

Do you have any hidden talents?

Back home, rowing was my main sport and I always considered myself a better oarsman than a rugby player.

What are the best things about the Saracens rugby club?

The club really is like having a big family. It’s almost impossible to leave training without spending three hours having “just one beer” and just about every week someone is hosting an event and it’s the entire club together again. Off and on the pitch I couldn’t be happier with the boys and girls of Sarries.

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

Definitely flying but I’d probably trade it in for an extra 10kgs.

dsc eagles dubai 7s gulf womens champions 2018

Eagles Women retain 7s title after semi-final drama

It was comfortable in the end for the Dubai Eagles, as they retained the Gulf’ Womens crown they won in their debut season last year but their 22-0 win over a spirited Al Ain Amblers in the final is far from the full story.

It took a sudden death try in extra time for the dominant side in Gulf Womens rugby to make it to the final after having found themselves in a monumental struggle with Dubai Hurricanes. Eagles were forced to display a level of resilience in that 22-17 win they aren’t often required to call on, just to make it back to the showpiece occasion on Pitch 2 and Hurricanes can leave with their heads held high.

The final itself was also not straightforward, with Amblers executing a tight, forwards oriented gameplan, which saw them keep possession for long periods through the power running of Jasmine Clark, Louise Fenton and Farah Alazri. Whilst the Amblers were able to match the favourites for physicality, epitomised by a number of crunching hits from Temi Akingbade, it was ultimately the Eagles’ superior skill levels which saw them pull clear.

Each of their four tries coming through passing interplay and a willingness to offload in the tackle often exemplified by the two Murphys, Lisa Marie and ever dangerous Hollie. They did have to withstand heavy pressure at the beginning of the second half with their lead at only 10-0, but Amblers inability to force the ball over the line was immediately proved costly when Bethany Middleton went in under the posts after an Eagles breakaway to be converted by Mairead Comerford.

Eagles rang the changes late on in the game but showed little sign of weakening their performance, replacement Kim Larsson completing the scoring with her first touch. Amblers might feel that the margin of victory didn’t do justice to the balance of play, and no neutral observer would have begrudged a consolation score, but Eagles clinical attacking play brought about their just reward.

DSC Eagles: Bethany Middleton, Hannah Aspden, Helen Amos, Hollie Murphy, Julie Lermusiaux, Kim Larssen, Lisa Marie Murphy, Mairead Comerford, Sandra Kunkler, Santi Stiglingh, Tara Cooney, Yevgeniya Aufdembrink

Al Ain Amblers: Bridgette Flake, Christaia Houser, Courtney Anderson, Erica Savage, Farah Alazri, Hannah Hall, Jasmine Clark, Karrissa Pimm, Louise Fenton, Marisse de Klerk, Sylvia Vilsoni, Temi Akingbad

Article by: Huw Harrow

Canes blow away misfiring Quins for first Dubai 7s title in over a decade

The Dubai 7s hasn’t been the happiest of hunting grounds for Dubai Hurricanes in recent years. Despite being regular co-tenants at the Sevens Stadium they’ve found themselves watching from the stands as Dubai Exiles, Abu Dhabi Harlequins and Jebel Ali Dragons have shared the trophy amongst themselves since their maiden triumph in 2007.

Hurricanes did not enter this year’s tournament as favourites either, despite some improved performances in the West Asia Premiership, they weren’t expected to match the firepower of the Gulf’s top teams. But in this final against a Harlequins side which had averaged 37.5 points a game in reaching the final, a calm, assured display built on a swarming defence saw them run out as clear and deserved winners.

The match looked over as a contest early into the second period when Joseph Riley stretched clear on the left wing to put his side 17-0 up straight after half time. Harlequins players were left protesting what looked to be an infringement in the build up which put Riley into the clear, but in reality it was only a fair reflection of the dominance of the Dubai outfit with the game having been played out almost exclusively in the Quins 22 until that point.

Both sides came into the final unbeaten and having survived nailbiting semi finals with Jebel Ali Dragons and Bahrain respectively. But the capital city outfit just could not get their game going early on, finding themselves camped under their own posts for the opening three minutes. The scoring was eventually opened by Lewis Anderson with Quins a man down after persistent infrigements in the danger area. Discipline proved costly again with a penalty conceded five yards from their own line allowing Boris Finck the opportunity to wriggle over after a quick tap to double the advantage.

Uncharacteristic mistakes continued to hamper Quins as frustration set in, lineouts misfired and balls were spilled in attack. This was only compounded by an interception score, run in by the impressive Sakiusa Naisau and converted from wideout by Finck, much to the delight of an increasingy jubilant Canes support.

Some powerful direct running from Emosi Ratuvecanaua and Andrew Semple eventually reduced the arrears late on to a more respectable 24-14 but this did nothing to dampen the celebrations of the men in yellow.

Dubai Hurricanes: Adam Marshall, Boris Finck, Daniel Crouchman, Edward Lewis, Elliot Speed, Ian Larkin, Joseph Riley, Lewis Anderson, Pio Tanimatuku, Sakisua Naisau, Tobias Oakley, Tomos Roderick

Abu Dhabi Harlequins: Andrew Semple, Andrew Stevenson, Ashbey Williams, Barry Dwyer, Brian Geraghty, Christopher McKee, Emosi Ratuvecanua, Epeli Dranibota, Kiniviliame Natuna, Nicholas Millewis-Thomas, Sean Stevens

Article By: Huw Harrow

Dubai 7s 2018

Here’s our guide to the 2018 Dubai Rugby Sevens, which kicks off this Thursday

When the days start to draw shorter, tinsel appears in shop windows and mince pies on the shelves it’s the time of year that means only one thing – Dubai Rugby Sevens weekend is upon us! Here’s all you need to know about what’s happening in the main Gulf Competitions this year:

Exiles Dubai rugby sevens gulf mens league champions 2017

Gulf Men’s League

The premier competition featuring the familiar big names from the West Asia Premiership, this was won in memorable fashion last year by Dubai Exiles, coming from behind to beat the fancied Jebel Ali Dragons in the final. Both of these two will be amongst the favourites again this year along with 2016 champions Abu Dhabi Harlequins and a Bahrain side who currently sit top of the Premiership standings in the XV a side format. Abu Dhabi Saracens and Al Ain Amblers are the two sides outside of the Premiership who complete the lineup, both deserve credit for stepping up as Conference sides to challenge the elite.

The sides will complete a pool stage round robin over the opening two days, looking to gain favourable seedings for the knockout stages, which culminate with the Final on 12:30pm in front of the main crowd on Pitch 1.

Pool A: Dubai Hurricanes, Bahrain, Dubai Exiles, Dubai Eagles
Pool B: Jebel Ali Dragons, Abu Dhabi Harlequins, Abu Dhabi Saracens, Al Ain Amblers

Rugby Sevens Dubai UAE 2018

Gulf Men’s Open

As ever, a colourful mixture of sides from across West Asia will be making the trip to Dubai with eight nations represented in total across the 20 teams. The finalists last year came from closer to home however, with Dragons 2s edging out Harlequins 2s and the four UAE Premiership second strings will be amongst the teams to beat. Amongst the chasing pack, Kuwait Scorpions competed in the ‘League’ tournament last year so will fancy going far at the lower level whilst Dubai Tigers, winners in 2016, are unbeaten so far in the UAE Conference and will be hungry to claim a few scalps. Look out of course for our very own Yalla Rugby invitational side who will be looking to improve on the Plate semi-final reached last time around.

The pool stages once again spread across both days with two rounds on Thursday and a single fixture on Friday with all sides guaranteed a knockout game on a busy Saturday. Group winners and three best runners up will enter the Trophy, remaining runners up, all third placed teams and the best of the groups back markers will compete for the plate while a consolation 16-20 playoff awaits the remainder. The Trophy final is scheduled for 17:26 on Pitch 2, immediately following the Plate.

Pool A: Yalla Rugby, Muscat, Bahrain 2s, Arabian Knights,
Pool B: Jebel Ali Dragons 2s, Saudi Rugby, Amman Citadel, Dubai Sharks
Pool C: Abu Dhabi Harlequins 2s, Roberts Constructions, Dubai Exiles 2s, Riyadh Falcons
Pool D: Dubai Tigers, Shaheen, Sharjah Wanderers, Amman Citadel 2s
Pool E: Ceylon Warriors, Kuwait Scorpions, Multiplex Bulls, Damascus Zenobians

Womens Gulf Champions 2017-1

Gulf Women’s

In what is a testament to the growth of the women’s rugby game in both UAE and the wider region, a whole host of new names will take to the field in what is an expanded tournament this year. Amongst the new entrants are three sides from Egypt, Lebanese outfit Beirut Aconites and a debut at the Dubai 7s for RAK Rugby Riders. Reigning champions DSC Eagles are well established as the dominant force in the women’s game within the UAE, and are unbeaten so far this season in the UAE Women’s Sevens League, but it remains to be seen if any of the unknown quantities from abroad may be able to present a stiffer challenge.

The sides are split in to four pools, the top two in each proceeding to the Trophy knockout stages and the bottom two entering the Plate. Finals take place on Saturday with the Trophy to be contested at 15:24 on Pitch 2.

Pool A: DSC Eagles, Dubai Hurricanes 2s, Kuwait Scorpions, Black Ruggers
Pool B: RAK Rides, Beirut Aconites, Emirates Firebirds, Sharjah Wanderers
Pool C: Dubai Hurricanes, Emirates Firebirds 2s, Abu Dhabi Saracens, Transforma Panthers
Pool D: Abu Dhabi Harlequins, Al Ain Amblers, AUC Wolves, Dubai Hawks

rugby 7s

Yalla Rugby Invitational Squad

We’re delighted to announce the Yalla Rugby Invitation Squad for this years Dubai Rugby Sevens 2018.

  1. Rob Forster
  2. Danny Thomas
  3. Phil Vyas
  4. Daniel Crumplin
  5. James Mulhair
  6. Paul Waters
  7. Sean Gillies
  8. Jehan Sohail
  9. Joe Corcoran
  10. Johnny Corcoran
  11. Mansoor Alzaabi
  12. Hassan Anabtawi


  • Kellen Hutchison
  • Alex Johnson

Again we will compete in the Gulf Mens Open competition looking to make it third time lucky for some silverware having come close in previous years. Why not get behind our squad and show your support. Below you can see our schedule over the weekend:

29th18:20Pitch 5Muscat
29th20:20Pitch 5Knights
30th20:20Pitch 5Bahrain

Article by: Huw Harrow

Brian O'Driscoll MeGettigans JLT Dubai

It’s a great opportunity to meet and greet O’Driscoll at McGettigans JLT, Dubai.  The event will include an afternoon of stories and insights from Brian, meet and greet with photo opportunity for all guests, Comedian Compere Mr Jerry Earl, and audience Q&A session, sports memorabilia and prize giveaways.

How do I enter the competition?

Simply like our Yalla Rugby Facebook page (if you don’t already!) and leave us a quick recommendation by clicking the button below. We will be notified of your recommendation and you will automatically be entered into the prize draw which will see the lucky winner announced on Thursday 22nd November.

Time left until prize draw entry closes:



Jamie Clarke Dubai tigers

Dubai Tigers Flanker Jamie Clarke has a quick Choosday Chat


Age: 33
Born: Palmerston North, New Zealand
Club: Dubai Tigers
Position: Flanker
Height: 180cm
Weight: 88kg

“I saw his wallet for the first time at the weekend, but only because his subs were due”

Do you have any nicknames?

It’s boring really, I just get JC, Clarkey or J.

What do you get up to in your spare time?

Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of spare time. If I do and there are some waves in Dubai I’ll be out on the water, other than that I like to get outdoors as much as I can. I do try and get out of Dubai and travel as much as possible though.

Do you have any phobias?

Yeah, I hate snakes.

What do you miss most about New Zealand?

The outdoors along with the surf, the Kiwi food, the beer and of course, my family.

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

Probably Richard Branson, at least I could learn a thing or two whilst I was in there!

Who or what inspired you to play rugby?

It’s a way of life back home in NZ. Most New Zealanders play rugby, it’s part of our culture and life growing up!

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

None of them because they are all pests…. haha Mandy Garry he’s got the best tan in the team!

Who has the worst Dress sense?

It would have to be Fitzy, because most of the time he doesn’t have any clothes on.

Who’s the tightest?

Noel, aka Leon Dashwood. I saw his wallet for the first time at the weekend, but only because his subs were due in at The Tigers!

How’s life in Dubai?

I can’t complain about life in Dubai, it’s been 12 years in the Middle East so pretty settled here right now and I recon I’ll be around the UAE for a bit longer!

What was the last brunch you went on?

Oktoberfest down at the Hyatt. A decent set up there.

Do you have any hidden talents?

Non that the general public need to know about!

What are the best things about Tigers?

It’s a great club, and an environment where rugby is the reason we show up week in week out, but there is also an understanding that family and work come first because that’s why people are here and it seems to be working well for us.

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

Not much of a music man pre match to be fair, if it all, I’ll blast some sounds from back home, Six60, Fiji, Herbs, Katchafire.

We’re lucky enough to have received some good luck messages ahead of this years Dubai Rugby 7s which will be taking place at the end of the month. This year we have again entered a team into the Gulf Mens Open tournament, having previously finished quarter finalists and semi finalists respectively.

Who will you be supporting at this years Dubai Rugby Sevens? There’s only one team you need to follow… according to some of our legendary fans!!! Click the videos below to hear what they have to say.

Maro Itoje

British & Irish Lions, England and Saracens Forward

Danny Care

England and Harlequins Scrum Half

Billy Vunipola

British & Irish Lions, England and Saracens Prop Forward

Joe Marler

British & Irish Lions, England and Harlequins Prop Forward

George Ford

England and Leicester Tigers Fly Half

gulf rugby roundup

This week’s Gulf rugby roundup, from our resident wordsmith – Huw Harrow.

Jump right in…

Dragons 2s - Team of The Week

Team of the Week – Jebel Ali Dragons 2s

Results might not be going the way of Jebel Ali’s 1s outfit as they look to defend their West Asia Premiership crown, but there is clearly significant strength in depth at the club with their 2s and 3s boasting a record for P9 W9 across the Conference and Community divisions. At 2s level the start to the season has been particularly impressive, racking up six wins on the bounce (five with a bonus point) and continued their winning ways this weekend comfortably seeing off Harlequins 2s 36-12 in what looked a banana skin fixture away at Zayed Sports City. Six points clear at the top of their group, the performances of this second string may bring about some interesting selection discussions for Mike Phillips in weeks to come.

eagles vs bahrain

West Asia Premiership

We wrote last week that there is clearly a good bit of momentum building in Bahrain this season and a crushing 88-7 win over Dubai Eagles this weekend will have done little to stop that. Yes the Eagles may be without a win so far this season, but they have not been blown away to that extent in any of their fixtures, especially not at home. Given the emphatic nature of that result it was key for Abu Dhabi Harlequins to respond and keep up in the title hunt, which they did via a convincing 38-20 home win over Jebel Ali Dragons. That defeat sees Dragons slip to second bottom in the table after Dubai Hurricanes produced another impressive result to overcome Dubai Exiles at the Sevens and find themselves in the lofty position of third as a result. Exiles have now lost three in a row after a promising start and face a daunting trip away to Bahrain next weekend.

tigers rugby


All things pretty much went to form in the Conference fixtures although there were a couple of nail biters with Dubai Tigers and Hurricanes 2s being pushed all the way. Canes held on for a 36-34 win to complete a double for the club over Exiles this weekend while reigning champions Tigers keep finding a way to win this season, edging out Abu Dhabi Saracens by a single late score at Al Ghazal. There were more routine victories for Al Ain Amblers in a typically high scoring encounter with Dubai Sharks and Dragons 2s away at Harlequins.

barrelhouse rugby players


Barrelhouse remain unbeaten after another convincing win over Amblers 2s but the plaudits must go to Tigers 2s for their first competitive win (excluding forfeits), 17-12 over last season’s champions Harlequins 3s. Otherwise it was a quiet weekend of Community rugby due to to the fixture between RAK and Dragons being postponed and the Shaheen forfeiting their game against Sharks 2s.

DSC Eagles ladies Rugby

Womens Sevens Series

It was business as usual in week three of the Women’s Sevens League as DSC Eagles took home their third straight win and still remain unbeaten. They don’t seem to be showing much sign of slowing down either, recording 192 points across their fixtures this weekend, the highest total of any round so far. Dubai Hurricanes and Al Ain Amblers once again provided the closest challenge finishing 2nd and 3rd respectively at the tournament hosted in Al Ain. Judging by the after party photos, the Amblers ladies certainly know how to throw an event – we’ll be hoping to join them when they next host the Womens Sevens Series.

Article by: Huw Harrow

gulf rugby roundup

All the latest from a high scoring week of Premiership and Conference action.

Jump right in…

bahrain Rugby Club - Yalla Rugby Team of the Week

Team of the Week – Bahrain

We may be the home of Emirates Rugby but we like to give credit where it’s due. This week’s Team Of The Week award goes across the Gulf to Bahrain after the men in red secured a bonus point home victory in their top of the table clash with Abu Dhabi Harlequins on Friday night. They open up a four point gap at the top of the standings and will be confident of consolidating their position with a trip to winless DSC Eagles up next. Always a tough nut to crack in front of their vociferous home support, Bahrain have added a greater degree of consistency to their performances this year with two wins out of three on the road. With the league’s most miserly defence and a home ground fortress – if Bahrain can add the sort of attacking fluency they demonstrated in this 39-20 win over Harlequins on a regular basis, they will take a lot of stopping this year.

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premiership rugby dragons exiles

West Asia Premiership

There was plenty of excitement outside of the top two this week with Premiership games averaging 66 points per match, perhaps heralded by the arrival of cooler winter conditions in the Gulf this week. Jebel Ali Dragons continued their resurgence with a 45-36 win over Dubai Exiles, though the bonus point gained by Exiles keeps them ahead of their city rivals in the table. It was heartbreak for the Dubai Eagles in their quest for an elusive first win, edged out by just two points by Dubai Hurricanes at the Sevens.

dubai eagles conference rugby


The Hurricanes-Eagles rivalry also served up a classic in the Conference at 2nd team level, but this time it was the new boys coming away with the narrowest of wins 38-37 giving them their first win of the season. Hurricanes’ slip up saw Dragons 2s move further clear at the top of the group, maintaining their unbeaten record and putting 55 points on the board over Exiles 2s in the process. In the other pool, Abu Dhabi Saracens missed the chance to close the gap of Dubai Tigers coming unstuck 24-15 away to Al Ain Amblers. Dubai Sharks completed a double over Arabian Knights in the weeks other fixture.

Article by: Huw Harrow

rak rugby nick young annual golf day 2018

Nick Young Annual Golf Day

16th November 2018

Tower Links Golf Club, Ras Al Khaimah
Registration and payment open 11:00 / Shotgun start / T-Off from 12:30 onwards

AED 375 per person (cash only) including BBQ, beverages, prize giving ceremony and live entertainment until late.

For team reservations and further information call:
Simon Williams – 056 138 4379
Galvin McKechnie – 050 536 8676

Nick Young – Annual Golf Event to be held in his memory

As most of you know, during last season’s Sharjah 10’s tournament, RAK Rugby player Nick Young died playing a sport that he loved. Another sport Nick was an avid fan of was golf! RAK Rugby Club will be honouring Nick with an annual golf event held at Tower Links Golf Course in Ras Al Khaimah. RAK RFC are hoping to raise funds for Nick’s family back home in Australia as they couldn’t claim on his company insurance.

The annual golf event is also a chance for the rugby community and Nick’s friends to come together to remember a great man and have some fun in the name of a good cause. In addition to the golf, at the end of the rugby season there will be a Nick Young Trophy rugby fixture between the Arabian Knights and RAK Rugby Club, as Nick was playing in a combined Knights/RAK team at Sharjah when the fatal incident occurred.

The Golf Day event will be held at Tower Links on the 16th November 2018 and is open to anyone interested, with the aim to have 72 players and all their friends and family along to enjoy as well as raise some money (and a toast) to Nick.

Anyone interested please contact Galvin McKechnie on 050 536 8676 or mail to

gulf rugby roundup

This week’s action across the Gulf rugby scene, including for the first time a look at the women’s sevens league.

Jump right in…

Dubai Eagles rugby team of the week

Team of the Week – DSC Eagles Women

On current form the Eagles ladies would have a claim to be one of the most dominant sports teams in the Middle East in any sport. The reigning Womens Rugby Sevens Series and Dubai 7s champions swept to victory this week in round two of this year’s competition, just as they did in round one. Eagles did at least concede points this week with runners up Dubai Hurricanes and the Dubai Cones managing to cross the whitewash against them, a feat not achieved by any side in the opening round.

abu dhabi harlequins first team premiership rugby

West Asia Premiership

Abu Dhabi Harlequins and Bahrain continue to set the early pace, both recording impressive wins this weekend. Quins gained revenge for their UAE Premiership final loss to Exiles with a 44-20 win at The Sevens Stadium, while Bahrain comfortably saw off Dubai Hurricanes at home. Jebel Ali Dragons halted their recent slump but were made to work hard by DSC Eagles. The top two meet in what promises to be a crunch fixture next week.

saracens conference rugby player


Just three fixtures were recorded in this round of Conference games as Exiles 2s were forced to forfeit during their fixture against Quins 2s due to injury woes in the 67th minute. All other matches went as the formbook might have suggested. Dubai Tigers 1s and Abu Dhabi Saracens 1s notched comfortable wins over Al Ain Amblers 1s and Arabian Knights respectively to cement their positions at the head of their group. Dragons 2s remain unbeaten but much as in the corresponding 1s fixture, did not have it all their own way in getting past Eagles 2s 27-19.

rak vs sharks


A further three games at Community level where Barrelhouse and Jebel Ali Dragons 3s maintained their unbeaten records, Barrelhouse impressing again in seeing off reigning champions Abu Dhabi Harlequins 3s 29-7. Quins slip to fourth in the standings behind RAK who saw off Sharks 2s.

rak womens rugby b-league winners

Womens Sevens Series

Round two of the womens sevens league, hosted by Hurricanes, saw no fewer than 30 matches take place on an action packed day at the Sevens. A full round robin A League and B league were completed with six sides competing in each. DSC Eagles continued their stranglehold on the women’s game in winning League A and remain unbeaten this year.

League B was a much tighter affair with RAK and Sharjah emerging as the two stand out sides, in what was both of their first league appearances of the season. RAK emerged victorious with just conversion splitting the sides in a 12-10 decider.

Article by: Huw Harrow

Gloria Patil with RAK team mates – front row, second from the right.

RAK Rugby Club Ladies Prop Gloria Patil talks phobias, dream dinner guests and Rocky Balboa!


Age: 28
Born: Mumbai, India
Club: RAK Rugby Club
Position: Prop/Hooker
Height: 152cm

“It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”

Do you have any nicknames?

I get ‘Glo’, ‘Glory’ and nowadays some of my teammates call me ‘Baby Dinosaur’ as I’m short but tough on those tackles made on the rugby field!

What do you get up to in your spare time?

Workout, Eat, Sleep and watch some series or movies on Netflix.

Do you have any phobias?

Yes, I’m an acrophobic…petrified of heights!!!

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

Any day with my fiancé. [YR – Awwwww]

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

Jane Leonard. She’s funny and at the same time an absolute beast on the field.

Do you have any hidden talents?

Well, I guess they’re still hidden…

What do you miss most about India?

My mom, my fiancé, Leo – my dog and the chaos in Mumbai. Here in RAK it’s too quiet and I am so used to the chaos of India.

What annoys you?

Having to wake up at early each morning.

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

Orlagh, Kylie Minogue, Virginia and our coach – Craig are all good motivators to get me pumped before a big game.

Who’s the best dancer in the RAK Ladies squad?

Well that has to be Briana, she dances very well.

What are the best things about RAK Rugby Club?

The respect and togetherness I get from my teammates and the friendships I’ve made within the team, and also our coach.

Who would be your three dream dinner guests?

Richie McCaw – All Blacks Rugby Player, John Abraham – Bollywood Actor and Sunny Leone – Bollywood Actress.

How’s life in the UAE?

It’s just been 2 months since I moved here, so far it is going great. The best time is when I have rugby training with the squad and match days… It’s the highlight of my week!

Who or what inspired you to play rugby?

I started playing rugby because of some of some friends in college back in 2009. I was the only one who continued to play after college after all my friends stopped playing. I love rugby due to the physicality of the game. In the words of the great Rocky Balboa – “It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”

Alex Lee from Jebel Ali Dragons RFC

Jebel Ali Dragons Scrum Half Alex Lee talks dislocations, potato sack fashion and life with the Dragons in Dubai


Age: 31
Born: Hong Kong (But I’m not Chinese despite my last name!!!)
Club: Jebel Ali Dragons
Position: Scrum Half
Height: 178cm… Down hill, with the wind behind me.
Weight: 83kg

“The club and all the boys in it have absolutely helped me. Whether they know it or not!”

Do you have any nicknames?

Just Al. Short for Alex but also because it’s my initials.

What do you get up to in your spare time?

Gym, paddle boarding, drink coffee, people watching, McGettigans, Barasti, Rock Bottoms and Netflix. I’ve just finished ‘The Sinner’ the other day. Although Jessica Biel is easy on the eye it’s pretty disturbing. Good though!

Do you have any phobias?

Seeing joint dislocations usually makes me feel sick.

What do you miss most about England?

Even after 5 years there’s something not right about going to work on a Sunday. I miss a good roast and a pint in a decent pub!

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

Jimmy Saville. Jim’ll fix it and get us out.

Who or what inspired you to play rugby?

I can’t remember initially but watching the likes of Lawrence Dallaglio, Neil Back, Mike Catt, Martin Johnson and a young Jonny Wilkinson etc back in 1998 definitely inspired me. I remember going down to Twickenham that year, which is a long way from Fleetwood, to watch England v Australia and remember the atmosphere being unreal.

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

Paul Hart. He’s an absolute stalwart, evergreen. He tried to retire this season but he’s just done 80mins in the front row for the 1s XV last weekend. Massive shout out to his wife for letting us have him back!

Who has the worst Dress sense?

Probably our Chairman, Quinney. Despite the constant abuse he likes to regularly don a t-shirt that can only be described as a potato sack. Although saying that there was a pair of purple loafers left at training one night but no one claimed them funnily enough.

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

Usually something chilled like Ben Howard in the car on the way, then Artic Monkey’s in the changing rooms.

Who’s the tightest?

I’ve been told by Matty Henry’s girlfriend he’s pretty tight…

How’s life in Dubai?

People have this preconception of Dubai being very extravagant etc but it’s very much what you make of it. Expat rugby attracts people from so many different backgrounds that you may not otherwise meet out here and our club is very much a family, as cliche as that sounds. So being part of the Dragons makes life out here good. I also work with the UAE Military so this has taken me all over the UAE. Places that people otherwise wouldn’t go to and meeting some very interesting people.

What was the last brunch you went on?

Wanderlust. We’d just lost to ‘Canes the night before so needed to forget that!

Do you have any hidden talents?

Yeh rugby. I’m actually really good but keep it really well hidden.

What are the best things about Dragons?

As I mentioned before about us being a mix of people from different backgrounds, it has to be the people. Otherwise there’s no club. We have a great culture that has definitely evolved over the 5 seasons I’ve been involved.

Being an expat can be tough at times and when life throws some pretty sh*t things at you, it can be even harder. There’s a big awareness of mental health at the minute which I think is great, and I can honestly say that when I lost everything back home, the club and all the boys in it have absolutely helped me. Whether they know it or not. Having a culture that is inclusive of life off the pitch is so important and we’ve got that in abundance. You can guarantee there’s always buy-in whether it’s conditioning work in pre season or a Christmas brunch. There’s a lot of new faces this season and they have definitely become a great part of that. The kit Tsunami provide for us is pretty cool as well! Stops Quinney wearing his potato top for a day anyway!

Mr Lee… it’s been an absolute pleasure. [YR]