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gulf rugby summer transfer list 2019

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

The Ins and Outs of Gulf Rugby Summer Transfer Window 2019

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

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

Barrelhouse Rugby ClubBarrelhouse

Transferred In: 1
Transferred Out: 0

Jebel Ali Dragons Rugby ClubDragons

Transferred In: 5
Transferred Out: 1

Dubai Exiles Rugby ClubExiles

Transferred In: 2
Transferred Out: 4

Abu Dhabi Harlequins Rugby ClubHarlequins

Transferred In: 0
Transferred Out: 3

Dubai Hurricanes Rugby ClubHurricanes

Transferred In: 1
Transferred Out: 3


Transferred In: 1
Transferred Out: 16

Abu Dhabi Saracens Rugby ClubSaracens

Transferred In: 3
Transferred Out: 0

Dubai Tigers Rugby ClubTigers

Transferred In: 14
Transferred Out: 0

Full Summer Transfer List

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

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

Source: UAERF.

Local Rugby Clubs

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

Your official guide to Gulf Rugby 2019

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

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

west asia champions 2018-19


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

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

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

Premiership Teams

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

dubai tigers conference rugby champions 2018/19

Division 1

Holders: Dubai Tigers

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

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

Division 1 Teams

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

Dragons UAE Community Champions 2018/19

Division 2

Holders: Jebel Ali Dragons

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

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

Division 2 Teams

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

dubai eagles womens sevens rugby series champions 2018 19

Womens Sevens Series

Holders: Dubai Eagles

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

Womens Teams

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

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.


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)

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

uae national rugby squad announcement 2019

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

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

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

stephen ferguson uae rugby player

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

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



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


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

Bahrain Rugby Club 2019

It is often said that Rugby is a game of fine margins, and no one will better attest to that than those who witnessed the heart-stopping finale of this year’s West Asia Premiership in Bahrain. The home side ran out 23-21 winners, yet for a fleeting moment, it was the Dubai Exiles celebrating victory as Durand Gerber’s last gasp 50m penalty sailed straight and true towards the uprights. A cluster of red shirts under the posts frantically indicated that the kick had fallen just short, and time stood still until, after consultation with his assistants, the UAERF Referee – Tony Duminy confirmed their verdict. Cue pandemonium in the stands and enormous relief for a Bahrain side who had looked to be cruising towards the title just moments earlier.

Leon Mauer’s penalty with just ten minutes on the clock had restored a 10 point cushion for the home team who had led 17-6 at half time and came into this fixture undefeated since falling to Exiles at The Sevens in October. Exiles though, having hung in there for large periods of the encounter played out in-front of a partisan Bahrain crowd began to take control of the tight exchanges as Bahrain seemingly caught the jitters.

Durandt Gerber Dubai Exiles fly half

First a scrum penalty with just 4 mins on the clock was converted by Gerber to reduce the arrears to one converted score. Then after a series of further infringements at the breakdown helped the visitors gain field position, they worked an opening on the right flank for winger Stubbs to score with what would have been the last play of the game. With tensions boiling over ahead of the prospect of extra time, Bahrain were adjudged to be the guilty party in instigating an off the ball altercation meaning that Exiles would restart with a penalty on half way and a chance to win the game outright with the final kick, even after the touchline conversion drifted wide.

The thrilling climax had looked unlikely for much of the game, Bahrain having taken an early lead through a converted score by centre Jack Phillips. A second Phillips score from a perfectly executed set piece move and the boot of Ross Preedy had at one stage built up a 20-6 advantage before a much improved second half showing from Exiles nearly culminated in the most dramatic of smash and grab raids.

As impressive as Exiles’ comeback was on the day, few can begrudge Bahrain their slice of luck in holding on at the death. They have been the outstanding team in this year’s West Asia Premiership competition by some way and hosted a fitting showpiece occasion for the final – which can be relived in full courtesy of Bahrain’s facebook live video.

Article By: Huw Harrow

west asia premiership gulf rugby final 2019

Bahrain v Dubai Exiles (KO: 17:00 UTC+3, Saar, Bahrain)

After 47 fixtures and over 2,500 points scored, this season’s West Asia Premiership reaches its climax on Friday with a grand final to decide the 2019 Champions. Here’s what you need to know.

When and where is it on?

The final will be hosted by Bahrain at their home ground in Saar. Having gone into the end of season playoffs as number one seeds, they earn the right to stage the final at home in front of the so-called ‘red wall’ of support. The event promises a carnival atmosphere with live music and kids entertainment, entry is free for club members and BAR2 for guests. Kick-off is scheduled for 17:00 but if you can’t make it to the game in person, Bahrain are planning to run a live stream via the club’s facebook page.

How did they get there?

Finishing first and third respectively after 15 rounds of regular season games, saw both sides through to last weekend’s semi-finals. Top seeds Bahrain benefitted from home advantage, cruising to a 56-7 win over reigning champions Jebel Ali Dragons. Exiles faced a tougher assignment, away to Abu Dhabi Harlequins side who had finished 13pts above them in the final league standings, coming away with an upset 31-16 win.

What does the formbook say?

It would be difficult to argue against Bahrain going into the final as favourites. Any away fixture in Saar is a tough assignment for sides having to take the morning flight across the Arabian Gulf – let alone in a season where Bahrain have been beaten only once in the XVs format. Intriguingly however, the only side to have got the better of them this season, is in fact the Exiles, in a 31-20 win back in October at The Sevens. The recent return fixture saw a Bahrain win by an identical margin of 11pts. So in head to head fixtures there is nothing to choose between the two and Exiles will fancy themselves as the side to halt the Bahrain juggernaut at the final hurdle.

Adam Wallace Bahrain RFC captain

Bahrain Captain: Adam Wallace

Bahrain Captain Adam Wallace is relishing the upcoming match against Exiles. He said;

“Winning the title at home would mean everything to us. As a squad we talk a lot about giving back to the club and being able to repay their support with knockout games and title playoffs is massive for us. We have a fantastic fanbase at the club and that’s seen every week in the size of our crowd and we know that without that we wouldn’t be where we are today. As the only club on the island we get huge support from everyone. The club itself will benefit massively on the day, but if this had been an away game you would have seen an entire crowd of redshirts making their way over to the UAE this weekend and I think that’s rare out here. We’re expecting a big turnout this weekend and the #redwall will be out in force.”

“There have been some issues with the league structure over the past couple of seasons and we are well aware that we are the only team outside of the UAE since Doha’s exclusion. Winning the title this weekend will hopefully cement the idea that inter-gulf rugby must continue if you want to have the most competitive league and continue to develop the sport in the region.”

The Lineups

Bahrain: TBC
Dubai Exiles: TBC

Article By: Huw Harrow

Vote For Your West Asia Premiership Winner 2018
Below you can vote for who you think will win this years West Asia Premiership 2018/19. Simply click on an image to choose your winning team!

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gulf rugby season preview 2018

2018/19 Gulf Rugby Season Preview

The start of the 2018/19 Gulf Rugby season is now upon us and with pre-season in full swing at most of the nation’s rugby clubs, it’s time to look ahead at the action in store for us and see how all of the domestic league competitions are shaping up. The summer has not been without its usual period of change as clubs come to terms with the usual spate of player arrivals and departures. Here’s what we know about how things will line up this season.

Jump Right In

UAE/West Asia Premiership

West Asia Premiership season 2018-19

UAE Premiership season 2018-19

Holders: Jebel Ali Dragons (West Asia) and Dubai Exiles (UAE)

Format: A straight league set up with all sides playing each other home and away over three rounds (Home, Away, Home). The champions of the West Asia Premiership will be decided between the top four teams after all league rounds are complete via playoff semi finals and final. Likewise, the top four UAE based outfits (discarding results against Bahrain) will have a semi final playoff to see who will play on finals day for the right to be crowned UAE Premiership Champions.

Ins and Outs: After a difficult season which saw them finish bottom of the pile with only one win, Abu Dhabi Saracens have decided to be relegated to the Conference league this year as they embark on a rebuilding phase.

UAE/West Asia Premiership Teams

Bahrain, Dragons, Eagles, Exiles, Harlequins Hurricanes

UAE Conference

UAE conference season preview 2018-19

Holders: Dubai Tigers

Format: Pay attention because things are about to get a little complicated in the second tier of Gulf rugby!

The ten UAE Conference sides have been split into two groups who will each play home and away fixtures during the first half of the season. Group A are formed of all UAE Premiership represented clubs and Group B are all other UAE rugby clubs. They will all fall under one league table this year with no split league as seen in previous years.

Part two of the season will see the sides face opposition from outside their group but only once. Points earned are added to their initial group totals. The season then culminates with the top two sides from each group entering the knockout stages with the Conference final scheduled for the end of March 2019.

UAE Conference Teams

Group A:
Harlequins 2s, Eagles 2s, Exiles 2s, Hurricanes 2s, Dragons 2s

Group B:
Amblers, Saracens, Knights, Sharks, Tigers

Ins and Outs: The Conference league was dealt a blow this week with the withdrawal of last season’s runners up and one of the UAE’s oldest rugby clubs, Sharjah Wanderers, citing lack of numbers. They will be replaced by the Dubai Eagles 2s who played their first season of Community rugby last year. Abu Dhabi Saracens 1s have dropped down from the UAE and will only field one team this season.

UAE Community

UAE Community season preview 2018-19

Holders: Abu Dhabi Harlequins 3s

Format: An initial league stage with each side playing each other once, aiming to secure a top two finish and a place at finals day where the champions will be decided.

Ins and Outs: Unsurprisingly for a league that fluctuated in size over the course of last season, the UAE Community rugby competition has seen its fair share of off-season activity. Barrelhouse, a club that is well established on the 7s circuit, make a welcome league debut whilst the Shaheen have also signalled an intent to return to the competition this year. Dubai Tigers’ expanding squad size sees them enter a 2s team for the first time. The Dubai Hurricanes will not field a 3rd team this year so will not participate in Community rugby. Disappointment comes in the shape of the Beaver Nomads, traditionally a team to beat at Community level, being forced to withdraw from this year’s competition.

UAE Community Teams

Amblers 2s, Barrelhouse 1s, Dragons 3s, Harlequins 3s, RAK 1s, Shaheen 1s, Sharks 2s, Tigers 2s

uae womens rugby season preview 2018

Womens Rugby

Holders: Dubai Eagles

Format: We’ll be doing a dedicated Womens Rugby article closer to their first set of fixtures (5th October), but to give you an idea of what to expect this season, there will be eight rounds of rugby where we’ll see Sevens rugby played at Harlequins, Hurricanes, Amblers, Saracens, Sharjah, Tigers and finally Eagles.

This season, there will be an invitational 15-a-side match held on finals day at The Sevens Stadium, alongside the other mens rugby Premiership, Conference and Community league finals which will be held on the 29th March 2019 which should bring the close to the season to an exciting climax this year with all levels featured on the final day.

uae mini youth rugby season preview 2018

Mini & Junior Rugby

This season we will hopefully see the Mini and Youth Rugby results and league tables featured for the first time on the website. We’re really looking forward to bringing you as much of the rugby action as possible here in the Middle East, so be sure to check back on a weekly basis.

Article by: Huw Harrow

Alice Luckhurst Dubai exiles u18s gurls

Dubai Exiles U18’s Centre Alice Luckhurst talks travel, tongue skills and the All Black Ferns


Age: 16
Born: Dubai, UAE
Club: Dubai Exiles
Position: Centre
Height: 169cm

“They lifted our players onto their shoulders for photos, it was really cool.”

What’s been your proudest moment playing rugby in Dubai?

Winning every tournament in the season when I played touch U15’s rugby for the Dubai Exiles.

What do you get up to in your spare time?

In my spare time I like to see friends, go to the beach and do some Wakeboarding and hit the gym.

What’s the funniest thing you’ve seen or heard on a rugby pitch?

When we trained with the Black Ferns (All Blacks Ladies 7s team) rugby squad before last years Dubai 7s, they lifted our players onto their shoulders for photos, it was really cool!

Do you have any phobias?

Crunching! I hate hearing people eat, especially crisps.

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

I’d love to be able to fly, so I could beat all the traffic!

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

It would be Sami Dronfield. She’s an all round amazing player. Skilful, fast powerful, strong and talented!

What would you like to achieve outside of rugby?

To graduate, get a degree and to travel the world!

Do you have any hidden talents?

Yes, I can fold my tongue into 3. Most people curl their tongue at the front but I can do the sides as well!

Who does the cooking at home?

Mum and Dad usually but my brothers and I enjoy cooking too, especially sushi.

What do you miss most about England?

Family mainly, but I don’t miss that much as I was born here so I see Dubai as my home.

Who’s the best dancer in the Exiles team.

Sophie Millward, she’s got all the moves.

What are the best things about playing for the Exiles?

The best thing about being a member of the Exiles RFC is the social events that happen throughout the year and everyone gets on well with each other. It’s fun and not too serious.

Jaen Botes UAE rugby player

Dubai Exiles and UAE International rugby player Jaen Botes talks spiders, spaghetti hoops, and super models with us.


Age: 28 (5th March 1990)
Born: Pretoria, South Africa
Club: Dubai Exiles
Position: Back Row
Height: 196cm
Weight: 113kg
UAE 15’s Caps: 6
UAE 7’s Caps: 13

What do you get up to in your spare time during the off season?

The last few seasons I’ve just been trying to keep busy, whether it’s in the gym or on an empty rugby field. Plus, I’m not gonna lie, I do like to increase my appetite!

Whats the weirdest thing you’ve experienced on a rugby pitch?

A team player once had a massive crying fit at halftime on the pitch. It happened here in the UAE, was an awkward experience and I didn’t know what to do.

Do you have any nicknames?

The UAE boys call me “Shelf”, I always refer to my midsection as my shelf and how I treat it and wish it wasn’t always on display.

Do you have any phobias?

I have a few but the worst one must be Spiders… I can’t stand them.

Whats the most challenging thing about playing rugby here in Dubai?

There are a few but I must say, the most challenging thing would be trying to adapt to all of the other players in a team as everyone plays their game at different levels, so not everyone is equivalently experienced.

Who does the cooking in your house and how do you prepare for match days?

My wife is a good cook on a good day…haha, I normally cook as she’s too busy with all of the other duties. Normally I try to have the biggest full English breakfast as possible, I must have my tin of spaghetti hoops though! I don’t tend to eat much before a game. I tend to stick to just the usual espresso a few hours before kick off.

Who are the jokers at the Exiles?

There are a few but Alex Fowler must be the highlight. There’s never a dull moment when he’s around.

If you could be any of your teammate, who would it be?

It must be Danny Waddy, what a tank and an utter gent off the field.

Who would you like to be stuck in a lift with?

Depends on what context… Haha, surely this is a trick question? I have to say I wouldn’t mind being stuck in a lift with Candice Swanepoel (South African super model).

What’s your guilty pleasure?

A bag of Cheetos in bed with love Island on the projector.

If you could have one super power, what would it be?

Invisibility, for many reasons!!

Your Mastermind specialist subject?

Rugby, I basically live and breathe it.

Do you have any hidden talents?

I don’t know, I would like to think I’m good at golf but I’m sure someone will tell me different.

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A Strong Statement From The Barbarians

On a sticky night in Dubai Sports City, a UAE International Barbarian team made up of Premiership players stormed past a Gibraltar Rugby Development side, who struggled to keep pace with the locals. The touring side looked a completely different team in the second half though, as the dug deep in unfamiliar conditions. It was a referees worst nightmare as Eugene Deegan had to deal with both teams plying in al white strips if not for the red socks of Gibraltar to keep him in check.

Video Credits: Marc Why

If it weren’t for poor discipline from the UAE Babas in the second half, the scoreline would have no doubt been much higher, almost hitting a cricket score. There was some great entertaining running rugby to be seen, non other than from local Exiles second row Stephen Ferguson, often seen tearing up the centre of the pitch with opposition players hanging on in vain to bring the big Irishman down. Final score down at Rugby Park 63-0.

Tonight Apollo Perelini’s UAE International 1st XV with play Gibraltar Rugby back at Sports City, kicking off at 19:00. You can view the starting XV team below:

  1. Lucas Waddington
  2. Gio Fourie
  3. Craig Nutt
  4. Chris Masson
  5. Daniel Perry
  6. Esekaia Dranibota
  7. Matthew Mills
  8. Jaen Botes
  9. Ross Sampson
  10. Durandt Gerber (C)
  11. Matthew Richards
  12. Andrew Powell
  13. Sakiusa Naisau
  14. Niko Volavola
  15. Luke Stevenson


  16. Murray Reason
  17. Kristian Stinson
  18. Sean Stevens
  19. David Knight
  20. Josh Ives
  21. Thinus Steyn
  22. Emosi Vecanau

Dubai Exiles 38-12 Abu Dhabi Harlequins

It wasn’t quite the thrilling climax to the domestic season we were anticipating under the lights in Sports City, but that will not matter one bit to Dubai Exiles who captured their second piece of silverware for the campaign with a composed victory over the holders.

In a somewhat fractious and disjointed affair, it was Exiles who kept their discipline the better of the two sides, leading from early on and in truth never looking likely to relinquish their advantage. The breakdown was ferociously contested throughout the 80mins meaning that both sides found continuity somewhat hard to come by.


In the absence of more free flowing fare, both teams looked to their fly halves to manage the game with many phases of play characterised by spelling of aerial ping pong. In Durant Gerber and Luke Stevenson both sides have quality operators in the 10 jersey and both showed it once again today. Each man enjoyed his own moments of brilliance, Gerber thumping over an early penalty from all of 45 metres with Stevenson showing delicious slight of hand to put replacement wing Barry Dwyer in for a second half try.

That score, off the back of a well rehearsed training ground routine off the back of a scrum came immediately after Exiles suffered a yellow card for repeated infringements near the line and briefly had the game well and truly on at 20-12 to the Dubai side. However Harlequins’ discipline dogged them throughout the evening and almost immediately from the kick off found themselves also down to 14 for collapsing a maul and the familiar sight of Gerber lining up to add another three points and further stretch the lead.

From then on in you sensed Exiles had the game under control. Quins’ Fijian pair in the backline, Emosi Vecanua and Natuna Kiniviliame mounted the occasional foray into Exiles territory but the black jerseys were always back in sufficient numbers to counter the threat with hooker Gio Fourie and number 8 Jaen Botes particularly influential. It was the giant Botes’ hack down field in the closing seconds that paved the way for Carel Thomas to notch his second try of the game, adding extra gloss to what was already a comfortable scoreline.

Dubai Exiles: Luke Waddington, Gio Fourie, Liam Andrews, Stephen Ferguson, Tom Gregory, Tomas Sackman, Matt Mills, Jaen Botes, Carel Thomas, Durant Gerber, Justin Walsh, James Crossley, Rory Arthur, Kyle van Rooyen, Thinus Steyn
Substitutes: David Gairn, Kristian Stinson, Kris Hughes, Luke Bertini, Alex Fowler, Josh Riding, Tom Williams

Abu Dhabi Harlequins: Peter Killan, Alfred Ries, Craig Nutt, Philip Brady, Andrew Shields, Eskia Dranbota, Sean Stevens, Sirilo Laladidi, Andrew Semple, Luke Stevenson, Emosi Vecanua, Natuna Kiniviliame, Joe Teasdale, Kobus Cronje, Matt Thomas
Substitutes: Murray Reason, Chris Jones-Griffiths, Semisi Seruitanoa, Mark Challis, Mike Pugliese, Tom Brown, Barry Dwyer

Team of the week - Dubai Exiles

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This weeks roundup of action packed UAE Rugby sees a well overdue inclusion of the Women’s Rugby 7s Series. A huge thanks goes out to Tara Cooney for the write up!


Jump right in…

Team of the Week – Dubai Exiles 1s

As a rematch of the Dubai 7s final and clash of the top two placed sides in the Premiership, Dragons v Exiles was very much the crunch tie of this round of fixtures. Most observers would have expected a tight contest but as it was, Exiles overwhelmed their hosts by a 20 point margin, in a 35-15 triumph which all of a sudden leaves them six points clear at the top of the standings. Whilst both Dragons and Harlequins have games in hand, Exiles’ fate now rests in their own hands and have a real shot at making this season’s final.
dubai hurricanes

UAE Premiership

In the week’s other fixture Dubai Hurricanes overcame a spirited DSC Eagles 36-23 at Sports City. While mathematically the Canes are not out of the reckoning just yet, they are yet to record a victory against a side other than Eagles or Saracens so far this year. Saracens, having gained their first win of the season last week were unable to build on that momentum, falling to a 66-0 reverse out in Bahrain.
dragons vs amblers

UAE Conference

Dubai Tigers sit top of the top half standings after making it two wins from two with a 39-24 triumph over Exiles 2s. With four from five making it through to the semi-finals, Tigers already look all but assured to make it through to the knockout stages. At the other end of the standings, Abu Dhabi Harlequins 2s now face a real battle to qualify after going down 26-17 away to Sharjah Wanderers. With their next fixture an away test at the resurgent Tigers the favourites for the title need to find some form.

In the bottom half, Arabian Knights 1s won a thrilling local derby with Dubai Sharks 1s 28-27 and in doing so claimed their first win of the season and kept themselves in with an outside chance of making the final. The Dragons 2s and Amblers 1s played out a basketball scoreline in Jebel Ali with the home side coming home 59-48.
dubai eagles womens sevens winners

Womens 7s Series

Sharjah Wanderers hosted round 5 of the West Asia Women’s Rugby 7s series this weekend with both an A league and B league up for grabs. The A league welcomed two new teams; Al Ain Amblers and Abu Dhabi Bats and with Abu Dhabi Harlequins having handed DSC Eagles their first defeat of the season in winning round four, this tournament was one of the most competitive yet. Ultimately though the Eagles reasserted their authority to claim the title holding off significant challenges from Harlequins and Dubai Hurricanes in the process. Their B side also took home the honours in the B league over host Sharjah, RAK Rugby, B sides from Al Ain and Hurricanes as well as an Eagles C outfit. It it great to see strength in depth in this competition continue to grow, we look forward to round six which will be hosted by Dubai Tigers at Dubai College on Feb 23.

Article by: Huw Harrow

dubai exiles gulf mens league champions 2017

Exiles Comeback Stuns Dragons In Dubai 7s Final In Gulf Mens League final 2017

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Dubai Exiles produced a display full of character to snatch a comeback victory over Jebel Ali Dragons and claim the Gulf Men’s League title at the Dubai 7s. Having fallen 12-0 down to a Dragons outfit buoyed by a semi-final win over Abu Dhabi Harlequins and backed by a vocal contingent of supporters and their very own mascot Chinese dragon, the occasion could have easily run away from Exiles early on. It took a show of guts, belief and a discipline that eluded their opponents to overhaul the deficit and claim a 19-12 triumph.

The game arguably hinged on a two minute spell at the end of the first half where a period of sustained Exiles pressure saw Jebel Ali concede two yellow cards in immediate succession, allowing Exiles to go in at half time level at 12-12. Dragons defended heroically to only concede the one try while down to five men, but the physical toll that took on them was to be telling in the closing stages of a tense second period.

It was Terry Jacobs who finally broke the deadlock, scampering under the posts with less than a minute remaining on the clock after a series of rumbustious Exiles charges had been rebuffed by desperate Dragons defence. Just as valuable was the intervention made a minute earlier by DuRandt Gerber whose scramble defence stopped what had looked a certain Dragons score in the right hand corner.

The result will be a bitter pill to swallow for a Dragons side who have now fallen at the final hurdle two years in succession. They had made all the early running with flying winger Niko Valavola to the fore in setting up the opening score. It was Valavola again whose powerful tackle produced the turnover which eventually led to Nick McCashin ghosting through the middle to open up what then looked an ominous 12-0 lead, before Exiles hauled themselves back in to contention with Tomas Sackmann’s brace just before the interval.

Exiles’ triumph ends Abu Dhabi Harlequins’ stranglehold on the domestic game in the UAE. Last year’s holders were edged out 21-19 by the Dragons at the semi final stage after having also fallen to the Exiles in Thursday’s pool matches. Exiles themselves progressed to the final courtesy of a 24-14 win over Dubai Hurricanes.

Gulf Mens League Final:

Dubai Exiles: Kris Hughes, Jaen Botes, Justin Welsh, Matt Mills, DuRandt Gerber, Kyle van Rooyan, Danny Waddy, Tomas Sackmann, Thinus Steyn, Carel Thomas, Jeremaia Kilicanasau, Terry Jacobs

Jebel Ali Dragons: Scott Hayes, Matthew Henry, Jonathan Hamilton, Ian Overton, Ethan Matthews, Nicholas McCashin, Kris Greene, Ross Samson, James Love, Matthew Richards, Niko Valavola, Sakiusa Naisau

Match Report: Huw Harrow

UAE team of the week

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Catch up on last week’s Conference and Community League action and find out who were Yalla Rugby’s Team of the Week…


The Conference is shaping up to be a competitive league this season, which is emphasised by the fact that after three rounds, the top six teams are separated by just three points. Sharjah Wanderers preserved their 100% status with a 62-0 win over Dubai Sharks 1s, but having only played two games thus far they have to settle for fourth place. Dubai Exiles 2s, who claimed an impressive away victory to Abu Dhabi Harlequins 2s, top the table on points difference from Dubai Hurricanes 2s, the Canes themselves enjoying a comprehensive 61-7 win over Arabian Knights. In the weekend’s remaining fixture Dubai Tigers ran out 41-24 victors over Al Ain Amblers 1s who despite putting up over 50 points in their first two games, are still hunting their first win.


If you wanted entertainment this weekend, the community league was where to find it with three fixtures yielding a whopping 246 points. Beaver Nomads and Jebel Ali Dragons 3s both made it two wins from two against RAK Rugby and Abu Dhabi Harlequins 4s respectively and head the standings. Elsewhere Abu Dhabi Saracens responded superbly to their opening day 0-65 reverse to the Dragons with a morale boosting 76-17 win over Al Ain Amblers 2s – indicating that they may yet be contenders this season.

team of the week dubai exiles

Team of the Week – Dubai Exiles 2s

Looking to bounce back after seeing a late penalty condemn them to a narrow 7-8 home defeat to Dubai Tigers last week, the last fixture Exiles 2s would likely have asked for is an away trip to reigning Conference champions Abu Dhabi Harlequins 2s. To go to Zayed Sports City and not just win but do so comfortably by 34-5 lays down a real marker for the remainder of the season and earns them top spot after week three. Whether the Exiles can maintain this level of strength in depth in coming weeks will be interesting to see, with their 1s having racked up 125 points in their opening two Premiership fixtures it is an impressive start to the campaign for the club.

Article By: Huw Harrow

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