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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.


Enver Johns - new coach of Dubai Sharks

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

Enver Johns – Sharks Appoint New Coach for 2019/20

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

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

The newly appointed coach, Enver said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dubai Sharks hooker Armel van Erck

Dubai Sharks hooker Armel van Erck talks mind reading, broken noses and secret tattoos


Age: 40
Born: Brussels, Belgium
Club: Dubai Sharks
Position: Hooker
Height: 174cm
Weight: 98kg

“He tried to tackle a bloke with his nose, which ended up getting broken.”

Do you have any nicknames?

I have many… Shorty, Fatty, and Belgie seem to be the most frequent ones used in the changing room!

What do you get up to in your spare time?

Coaching kids’ rugby, cycling, and spending time with my boy, which is the best thing in the world.

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

A few years ago, our fullback – Robbo, tried to tackle a bloke with his nose, which ended up getting broken in the process. There is even a picture showing him in mid air with only his nose touching the guy’s heel. [YR – Look what we found!]

broken nose tackle dubai sharks

Do you have any phobias?

I have an irrepressible fear of heights, which is going to make many people chuckle…

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

I’d love to be able to read people’s minds!

Do you have any hidden talents?

I can cook up a pretty good dinner!

Who has the worst dress sense at the Dubai Sharks?

Definitely Philip Smurthwaite (Smurf).

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

Probably Dan Griffiths, just to see how life is as a short, fat, angry bloke.

Who does the cooking at home?

Easy. Me. I’m the best at cooking in the house.

What do you miss most about Belgium

The forests and the lakes around where I live, the incredible Belgian food, and obviously, my family.

Do you have any tattoos?

Yes. Enough said. [YR – Must be the French flag!!]

Who would be your three dream dinner guests?

Barack Obama, Sandra Bullock and Sebastian Chabal.

How’s life in Dubai?

Life in Dubai is great! Rugby plays a big part in making life so good here! I’ve made lots of great friendships over the past 13 years that I’ve spent here too.

Danny Griffiths - Dubai Sharks Rugby

After a troublesome 12 month period without a place to call home, the Dubai Sharks will finally be able to sink their teeth into new dwellings this coming rugby season. Their new clubhouse will be known as the Sports Zone within the Boathouse at Meydan, UAE. Their new club facilities will boast training pitches, a fitness zone and a purpose built all important clubhouse offering value food and drink for players and fans as well as the general public.

The new Sports Zone Clubhouse will be the social centre for the new look Sharks team and aims to be at the heart of sport within Dubai.

Officially opening their doors to the public and to new social and playing members this coming Friday 20th July, the Sharks expect to see a full house to welcome them home at last.

New SportsZone Club House at Meydan, Dubai

It was just over 12 months ago that the Sharks found themselves without a location due to the creation of the Dubai Eagles rugby club at Sports City Rugby Park, where the Sharks had been co sharing with the Arabian Knights for the previous 4 seasons. For the past season they have (against all odds) survived a pretty troublesome period of rugby.

Club Chairman, Mike Quinn said,

“The last season has been extremely difficult for all members of Dubai Sharks, but we now look forward to starting the 2018/2019 season in our new home at The Sports Zone. We believe that our partnership with the Sports Zone and GSMEG will be extremely beneficial to all involved. To be able to confirm that our new home is in this amazing world class facility, which includes our own clubhouse, is an absolutely amazing way to start the new season for all our members, old and new”.

Now the Sharks hope to put the past season’s woes behind them as they embark on pastures new over at the purpose built Sports Zone facility, which will play host to a number of sports on and off the field and aims to have their newly installed grass pitch ready for the start of the 2018/19 rugby season.

With a rich rugby history in Middle East, The Dubai Sharks was founded in 2006 as a senior men’s team playing in the UAE Rugby Conference. A rugby club with a diverse and growing membership renowned for their sportsmanship and hospitality, they are still looking to promote their mantra as a “Serious Rugby, Seriously Social”.

If you are interested in Joining the Dubai Sharks Rugby Club for the new 2018/19 UAE Rugby Season, then be sure to visit their profile page here.

Wanderers vs Dragons UAE Conference league 2017

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Whats New With The UAE Conference League?

  • Dubai Wasps will not compete this year
  • Abu Dhabi Saracens 2s drop to the Community league
  • Arabian Knights and Dubai Sharks to play at new home venues

amblers harlequins conference rugby final 2017

Will the Al Ain resurgence continue?

It was a tumultuous season last time round for the men from the Garden City. After dropping out of the Premiership a mere two games in to the competition, citing an inability to field a team, they found life easier in the Conference racking up some big wins en route to finals day. A loss in a thrilling contest with Harlequins 2s will no doubt motivate the Amblers to go one better this time around. The Amblers once again cite player retention as having been a challenge over the summer but under the guidance of new head coach Sean Emmett a more stable club environment and a core of players at their disposal who have competed at Premiership level should see them prosper.

sharks tigers conference uae rugby final 2017

Can anyone gate crash the top half?

The late season top-bottom half make up has had a familiar look to it in recent seasons with Dubai Tigers and Dubai Sharks contesting the bottom half final for two years running. Both must surely go in to this season with sights firmly set on a top half finish this year and competing for greater honours. Recent form suggests the Tigers are the better bet, having emerged victorious on finals day and bolstered their coaching ranks over the summer with the addition of the experienced Peter Kelly. Both the Sharks and Arabian Knights have both had to contend with the upheaval of losing their home ground at Sports City to the new boys, Dubai Eagles, but both remain confident that their player base will remain loyal with the Knights securing a prime new venue at Kings College Barsha and Sharks playing this seasons rugby at Jebal Ali Centre of Excellence.

Article by: Huw Harrow

jebel ali dragons dubai eagles rugby

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Dubai Eagles Suffered A Heavy Loss In Their First Ever Outing To The Dragons

It was business as usual last night at Jebel Ali, as the Dragons put on a display showing the expected standard needed in Premiership rugby in a pre-season friendly against new boys – Dubai Eagles.

There was a good turnout for what was a very hot and sweaty evening at the Jebel Ali Centre of excellence. The Eagles were finally able to get their claws into some decent rugby after what seems like a whirlwind of a summer campaign, with plenty of players signed up for the new outfit, helped by a boost of players from the recently folded Wasps and the relocation of the Dubai Sharks, from what was a very convenient location for local Dubai rugby players.

The Dragons gave the Eagles quite a toasty welcome to a Premiership standard of rugby, as they put 59-5 past them with some slick play and good line breaks. Henry Paul’s side looked very sharp and will be looking to make amends for last seasons Premiership final loss this season.

The Eagles certainly showed what they had to offer though, with some strong defence, attacking plays and should feel pretty happy to get their first match under their wings. Scrum half, Josh Ives, will certainly be happy as he darted over the line in the corner to score the first ever try for the Eagles.

Click to watch the match highlights below:

Head coach, Pat Benson praised his side, saying;

“I couldn’t be more proud of the boys. They put themselves out there and wanted to play what I feel is a very established Dragons side for a first rugby match for the Dubai Eagles.”

The Eagles struggled with organisation, but showed good glimpses, against a Dragons team that have played together for quite a long time. Replacements were limited with a few players missing due to injury or still on summer breaks and that showed on some of the tired bodies on the pitch, but they all put in a very good 80 minute shift.

The hosts were very accommodating and supportive, getting all players some rugby action which helped out the Eagles in the later minutes with regards to equaling out the standard as much as they could.

Benson added, “Looking forward, I can only see us getting better and the glimpses and patches that did come together, I think it’s showing that the Eagles are actually looking to play some decent rugby”. “I thought the Dragons hospitality and support given to us was absolutely outstanding and we look forward to playing them again in the season.”

Sharks Show Strength And Resilience After A Troubled Summer

The build up match before the main event last night saw the Dragons 2nd XV take on the Sharks 1st XV side. Pre season games are often a bit hit and miss, but today, certainly for the Dubai Sharks, given how the last 3 months have gone for them, was an indicator of how they have progressed and more importantly, how all the new players have integrated into the new look side.

Dubai Sharks Danny Griffiths

Club Chairman, Mike Quinn was impressed, saying;

“Although the Dragons won, the Sharks have taken a huge amount from the game in our understanding of progress and what we now need to work on.”

There was some strong defence and very competitive rugby played by both sides, which made for very good viewing, and hopefully a taste of what we’re in for in the UAE Conference this year.

Overall, the result may not have gone the way of the Sharks, but they appear to have learned a lot about themselves and seem to have brushed aside the upheaval of their club during the summer break. Final score 34-17 to the Dragons.

uae rugby grand finals 2016 17

Inaugural UAE Rugby Grand Finals Day to be played On Friday April 7th

UAE Rugby will host their inaugural Grand Finals Day on Friday, April 7th, at Dubai Sports City’s Rugby Park in Dubai.

In a first for the Federation, the UAERF Grand Finals are the culmination of UAE Rugby’s Community, Conference and Premiership league fixtures played over the 2016/2017 rugby season.

“We are extremely pleased to bring the inaugural UAE Rugby Grand Finals Day to our rugby-loving community. Each year we are thrilled with the level of rugby we witness across our domestic league, and the finals have always drawn enthusiastic supporters. We are confident that bringing all three leagues together into one day will enhance the excitement and raise the profile of the league’s top-ranked teams.” said Qais Al Dhalai, UAE Rugby Secretary General.

Finals games kick off at 1pm with Abu Dhabi Harlequins competing against Jebel Ali Dragons in the third-tier Community League, followed at 3pm with two deciding games from the second-tier Conference League; Bottom 5 between Heartbeat Tigers and Dubai Sharks and Top 6 between Al Ain Amblers and Abu Dhabi Harlequins. At 5pm, the Federation’s elite Premiership League will play-out between Abu Dhabi Harlequins and Jebel Ali Dragons.

Alongside this rugby-fest will be mouth-watering food and beverage options as well as fantastic giveaways and prizes. Entry to join in the Finals Day fun, and watch quality domestic rugby, is free.

Why not re-live all of the 2016/17 UAE Rugby season by viewing our Match Day Photo Gallery.

Knights vs Sharks Dubai derby uae rugby



Dubai Derby day in Sports City

With the Knights confidence boosting win over the Saracens last weekend, you might have had your money on the home side to take the win in this local Dubai derby matchup against a struggling Sharks side.

Unfortunately for the Knights, things didn’t go their way, losing the game 24-39 to the Sharks. A lack of ball control at the breakdown and silly penalties led to a couple of turnover tries, which saw the Sharks quick to capitalise on their mistakes. For the Knights, there were some solid runs from Kassim Buyondo and Sean Corroon and some good defensive work from winger Will Boardman. The build up to this game for the Knights was slightly unsettled as their first choice hooker – Serunjoji Paul was ruled out with a broken foot with Jake Myers stepping into the position for the first time.

Knights Manager, John Taimana said, “At the end of the day, we lost the match at the breakdown with ball security not up to the standard required.”

He went on to say “The ruck was hotly contested and a number of penalties ensured that one team was able to put pressure on, which for this game was the Sharks” before finally adding, “Now, we prepare for the Bottom 5 rounds and will look forward to facing them again.”

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The Sharks can be pleased with themselves after a disappointing post sevens period of rugby, culminating in them having to forfeit last weeks game against the Exiles, simply because they did not have enough fit players. Yesterdays derby saw the return of Dan Crumplin in the front row, who put in a ‘man of the match’ performance with his relentless defence. This game also saw captain and UAE strongman, Joe Corcoran returning after the birth of his first child and putting in some solid contact. Together, they managed to set a platform for the team to get a rhythm going.

There is still a long list of players yet to return from injury for the Sharks, who will only strengthen the side but the coaches will be faced with selection headaches from players coming off the bench and holding their hands up – Paul Waters in particular having a good spell at full back.

Head coach Adrian Cartwright said, “Naturally, we’re disappointed to not be getting a Top 6 finish, something that seemed to almost be a given after 4 wins from the opening 6 games, but injuries have had a significant impact since the Dubai Sevens and so yesterday was reassuring for many of the guys.”

Cartwright added, “Most importantly, the game was played in great spirit and was a good match to watch with the Knights threatening right to the end, resulting in both teams seeming to enjoy the afternoon.”

Both teams now out of the race to be in contention with a Top 6 place, this game was all about the bragging rights and the turf war. As local Dubai derbys go, this Sports City fixture was always going to be a good one to watch.

Other Conference Results

Elsewhere in the UAE Conference, Amblers just secured their place in the Top 6 with a strong performance over the Saracens, beating them 63-10. They finished level in the table with Tigers but go through on points difference. The Wasps vs Tigers game was forfeited due to Wasps injury troubles seeing them unable to put a side together. A strong performance from the Harlequins 2’s saw them end the unbeaten run from the Dragons 2’s, winning convincingly 41-18. Over at The Sevens, the Hurricanes 2’s just scraped a win against Exiles 2’s with a last minute try in the corner after a late scrum, leading to their flanker diving over from 5 yards out, taking the victory 39-34. It will be an interesting next few months as we now split the Conference League into Top 6 and Bottom 5.

By Alex Johnson


Emirates UAE Rugby Roundup


UAE Rugby Roundup

All three UAE rugby leagues are now into their regular season once again with both the Premiership and the Community tournaments back on the pitch.

Starting with the West Asia Premiership, the Saracens kicked off their season with a 20-0 win against the Amblers due to the match being ruled as a forfeit by the Amblers breaching UAERF Competition Regulations. Jayden Bell and Sunia Laladidi were both not eligible to play during this match. As stated in UAERF Regulation 19 – all fully completed dispensation forms must be submitted 15 days prior to the scheduled fixture. The Amblers will hope that the penalty point received doesn’t come back to haunt them near the end of the season.

The other match was an exciting 35-13 win for the Harlequins 1st XV against the Hurricanes 1st XV. The Quins really put their hand up as genuine title contenders against a strong Canes side.

In the UAE Conference league the Wanderers 1st XV secured a hard fought 23-14 win against a determined Heartbeat Tigers 1st XV side. They can take great pride in pushing the defending champions hard, finishing just 9 points behind. The Dubai Sharks 1st XV produced a gutsy performance, beating a battling Wasps 1st XV team by a solitary point 14-13 with the Sharks putting everything they had into the match and leaving nothing on the pitch at the sound of the final whistle.

Harlequins 2nd XV eased to an impressive 57-10 win against a struggling Amblers 2nd XV side. The Hurricanes 2nd XV suffered a disappointing 7-36 loss against an extremely impressive Dragons 2nd XV outfit, having finished one place above the Dragons last season, the Hurricanes will be disappointed with the heavy loss. The final match of the Conference was a dominating 59-0 win to the Exiles 2nd XV against the Saracens 2nd XV, the biggest scoring margin of the round leaves the Saracens with a lot to work on before the next round of UAE rugby.

The Community league kicked off with a Thursday night match for the defending champions – Beaver Nomads 1st XV against the Sharks 2nd XV. A physical encounter ended with the Nomads running out as 48-12 winners. The Amblers 3rd XV entertained the Harlequins 3rd XV on Friday with the Quins producing a fine performance to win 43-22.

Shaheen 1st XV produced the performance of the Community league by beating the Sharks 3rd XV 34-5. With just one season of 15s rugby union under their belt it shows that Shaheen have serious potential under head coach Apollo Perelini and will only get better as the season goes on. The final match of the Community league saw the RAK Rocks 1st XV entertain the Dragons 3rd XV in the “sandbox”, the name given to the Rocks newly refurbished all sand pitch. An extremely tiring game was won by the impressive Dragons unit 61-12.

A look ahead to the next round

There will be some great rugby on offer this coming weekend in the West Asia Premiership and Conference.

The match to watch in the WA Premiership has to be the defending champions, the Exiles 1st XV taking on the Harlequins 1st XV, who produced a fine performance last week.

In the Conference the Dubai Wasps will be looking to bounce back from their loss in round 2 and hopefully come away with a win against current champions Sharjah Wanderers 1st XV, to get their season back on track.

The Community league have a weekend off before returning to action on the 7th of October.

By Tom Davies

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uae conference rugby round up Tom Davies

After a quiet few months off, the UAE conference tournament is back for what looks to be an exciting season of rugby. The opening weekend saw some great matches take place across the UAE.

Defending champions Sharjah Wanderers began their campaign with a comfortable 34-7 win over the Dubai Sharks, showing their intent for back-to-back Conference triumphs.

The Arabian Knights lost a hard fought battle with the Wasps 15-29. The Knights seemed to win the battle of the forwards for the majority of the match but in the end discipline let them down and the Wasps made them pay for their mistakes.

The Dragons 2nd XV cruised to an impressive 58-3 win over the Al Ain Amblers 2nd XV, announcing that they are going to be a force to be reckoned with this season.

The final match saw the Abu Dhabi Harlequins 2nd XV go head to head with the Dubai Exiles 2nd XV. With both sides having finished in the top half of the table last season neither team wanted to drop points on the opening weekend. The result went the way of the Exiles who ran away with it to win 41-5.

A look ahead to this weekends UAE Rugby

The action continues this weekend coming with round 2 of the UAE Conference taking place, the pick of the matches is the Hurricanes 2nd XV taking on the Dragons 2nd XV, both teams have ambitions to finish in the top half of the table and the Dragons will definitely want to continue the great start they have made to the season.

Thats not all thats taking place this weekend with the beginning of both the UAE Premiership and Community League. The Premiership sees The Amblers entertaining the Abu Dhabi Saracens and the Dubai Hurricanes taking on the Abu Dhabi Harlequins. The match to watch in the Community League has the be the Beaver Nomads against the Sharks 2nd XV, the Nomads will be looking to defend their title this season and will hope to start it off with a win.

By Tom Davies

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Bahrain RFC took on local side Dubai Sharks in a pre-season friendly last Friday night giving the Sharks game time to prepare for the upcoming 2016/17 UAE Conference rugby season, which kicks off on the 23rd of September.

Bahrain celebrated their 65 – 0 victory over the Sharks with this team photo after the match;

Bahrain Rugby Club celebrate win against the Dubai Sharks

Photo credit: @bahrainrugby

On Friday 26th February, 2016, the Dubai Sharks Rugby Club made history by fielding four competitive teams on the same day down at the Dubai Sports City ground.

Sharks 2nd XV vs Sharks 3rd XV

One unique game was between the Sharks 2nd XV and 3rd XV playing in the UAE Community League competition. This was the first time that any Dubai Sharks teams had faced each other in a competitive 15-a-side game.

The match itself was an extremely competitive game, with the 2nd’s using their younger players to great effect, running out 38 – 7 victors. The score line didn’t reflect the game as the first half was a tight fought contest with the Sharks 3rd XV scoring the first points of the game with a penalty try and keeping the 2nd XV deep in their half for most of the first 30 minutes. With fitness and youth on their site, and after a strong half time team talk, the 2nds returned to the field to display some great running rugby and scoring 4 tries within 15 minutes. Pictures of the game are available here.

Womens Rugby

Another chapter written in the clubs history saw the first Sharks Ladies 15-a-side team take to the field, made up of Sharks and Hurricanes players. They played against a mixed Sharjah/Tigers side, with the Shark/Hurricanes ladies dominating the game, running out 36-17 winners.

1st XV Rugby

The Dubai Sharks 1st XV are chasing for a place in the UAE Conference League Plate Final. With two games played, losing the first game in hard fought battle against the Heartbeat Tigers, then winning a tough battle against their neighbours, the Arabian Knights.

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The article below is an account of the latest Bali 10’s tour by one of the Arabian Potbelly Rugby Players in Dubai by PB Quasimodo

Bali 10s – Day One

Entered into the Bali 10’s Vets Cup, were a group of Potbelly Veterans, in a futile attempt to recapture their better days, set out for the magical island, in search of sun, sea and avoiding any need for additional hip replacements.

As with all Potbellies Tours, events started with a charitable endeavour, visiting a coffee plantation and the local community, on the northern volcanic territory. Much was learnt, sports kit was donated and super charged civet coffee was appreciated by the weary travellers, who had assembled from the four corners.

Bali 10s – Day Two

Our first warm up session, a bout of beach rugby, against a local mob of super charged, steroid popping, super human, U15 teenagers team — The Canggu Dogs / Bali Heat… Or at least that’s our excuse for getting our arses handed to us on the fine shores of Canggu Beach. A few of the touring party contemplated swimming off home. There was also a fitness warning shot fired across the bows very early on, where PB Quasimodo said he needed a “rest” after 42 seconds of play against the Dogs, which worried a few. Fortunately the arrival of local chilled Bingtangs ensured the Potbellies regrouped, re-energised, and provided a sublime lesson in rugby’s finer skills to the local rabble by basically forgetting the “touch” bit of the ‘Touch Rugby”. The only problem then appeared to be PB 30 Seconds, the focal point of our lineout effort, had obviously been at the donuts in preparation and solidarity for our upcoming game against the Malaysian Police Force. This in turn meant that he weighed marginally more than the Death Star to lift. So, The lineout wasn’t looking good, although your correspondent is pleased to record that our full-on 5 man, 480Kg scrum destroyed the 170Kg, 3 man effort of the U15s. In that sense at least, it was like men against boys. So the scrum was obviously looking good.

Bali 10s – Day Three

We recovered and nursed injuries.

Bali 10s – Day Four

The Bali 10s Tournament kicks off. We had a mid-morning fixture against the Jakarta Dinos an outfit, most of whom looked surprisingly youthful for a Vets squad. After initially putting intense pressure on their line, they scored a breakaway try, a lead which was consolidated a few minutes later—probably after a lineout I imagine, where we had now resorted to using cranes and car jacks to lift PB 30 Seconds. … However, we were still competitive (line-outs aside), and after yet another break from PB George Michael, PB Invisible scored our only try of the game, a straight 12 minutes of combative 10 aside, to leave us losing the game 15 points to 5… not bad considering we were playing a bunch of 24 year old gym-junkies.

Our second game, against a mining outfit from Aus / Indo , was more evenly matched, because at least they had read the rules on the “age policy for vets”. They did however have one player who was a 270Kg, 6’9″ tall miner and had obviously done time for GBH. PB Quasimodo, whilst on the burst, chose to run directly into said miner to discover what happened when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. Lets just say everyone in the ground winced and the crash was heard in Perth. It was also in this game we first displayed the unique art of try line fever, although our lineout still wasn’t working. To be fair though, it wasn’t just PB 30 Seconds who was having a dodgy time at the lineout by now. In an often forgotten and overlooked move, PB Invisible interpreted the line out call to be “Fire the ball at top speed into the ample crack of PB Quasimodo’s arse” as opposed to the more traditional throw to the jumper (Darth again), who by some loophole in the laws of physics this time we had actually managed to lift. Ironically our try in the second game came from one of their lineouts, where PB Lord Lucan stole the ball off the GBH miner, who was subsequently flattened by PB Slip Slap Slop doing his Exocet missile impersonation, before PB George Michael’s and the back line’s wizardry created space for us to score via the wing in the far corner. Losing the game 10-5 was no shame in the end.

With no more Vets fixtures for the day some of the squad, we shall refer to them as the deluded dementia sufferers, ran out for the Barbarians in the Open Cup. Limbs were lost in a bruising encounter against an efficient Perth outfit.

In the evening we licked our wounds over a 15 course gastronomic, four hour, marathon pig-sty-athon, which endangered the viewing of Wales defeating Australia. (Editor Note: The bloody Wallabies won, ya Taffy Buffoon!)

Bali 10s – Day Five

Day five saw a very early start against Malaysia’s finest. The Police rugby squad. Many a Piggy trembled. Would the Officers identify them from Interpol’s latest Wanted Persons list? Caught by a sucker punch try almost directly from the kick off, while most of the piggies were still wiping the sleep from their eyes and really desperately hoping for the caffeine / brufen / paracetamol / an emergency shot of vodka to kick in. From the restart though you could see the effects of the various stimulants working, and the subsequent panic slowly starting to appear in the eyes of the opponents. like they’d been caught beating a confession out of a backpacker or something. PB 50 Shades continued his excellent half back work with PB George Michael, but this time choosing to showcase his brilliant banana kick from fly half, at one point managing to put the whole of our team offside, causing uncertainty in the Police ranks, who just threw the ball out for a lineout to us rather than score. The line out calls were now “Seriously, don’t worry about it. Just F* throw it in PB MMA”. Using such a tactic, it looked like we were disorganised, further disorientating and panicking our opposition. Finally, having camped on their line for a full 8 minutes, in a staggering example of white line fever / forward-play bloody mindedness, by ignoring both our full 5 man overlap and the roars of “pass it out FFS” from the unknowledgeable onlooking crowd (for fully 3 minutes), we finally bulldozed over for the equalising score with the last move of the game, proving, again, that piggy brawn is indeed sometimes better than brain. We can happily report, the game ended in a 5-5 draw, with no arrests and just a couple bruised ribs.

With a five hour wait till our next game (!!!) several Potbellies were spotted surfing the waves off Jimbaran Beach, whilst others ran out for the Barbarians squad, picking up additional bruises as their only reward.

Due to what can only be described as ‘Potbellies fear’ the next scheduled opposition withdrew from the second game, leaving us with a tasty rematch against our law enforcement friends. Not wanting to chance their luck a few of the Potbellies retreated to the sty, watching from afar, as the game kicked off. The intervening hours had been fortuitous for the Police squad, with their ranks swelling (pun intended) of recently graduated Police Academy recruits, adding speed to their back line. After the kick off the “reinforced” police raced out to a 2 try lead, until showing our versatility of team thought, this time we decided to use our two man overlap allowing PB MMA to not only score in the corner but also flatten the policeman who’d thumped him late after the score for his trouble. They’d have yellow carded the policeman, but as he was lying on the ground whimpering “Has he gone yet?” the referee and linesman decided that would only be adding insult to injury to the poor policeman. The score however proved not quite to be enough. Police 10 – Piggies 5, I think that was the final score. But don’t quote me on that, Officer…

The tour wrapped up in the evening by the partaking of many local ales, enjoying Irelands crushing defeat of the French Frogs.

Bali, we love you. Till next time,

PB Quasimodo

bali 10s festival 2015

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UAE Rugby Dubai Eden Park Sevens (7’s) Series

The UAE Rugby Federation (UAERF) has announced the dates for this years UAE Rugby Dubai Eden Park Sevens (7’s) Series. The popular tournament will spread over two Fridays; the first round on November 20th at the Dubai Sharks home ground at Dubai Sports, with the final round being played at Al Ain Amblers Rugby Club (Al Ain) on Friday November 27th.

“UAERF is very proud to bring the UAE Rugby Eden Park 7’s two-day tournament to the UAE rugby community for a fourth year, and we are delighted this tournament has become a firm fixture on the domestic calendar. This time of the year sees the rugby mindset shift sharply from the XV’s to the 7’s format and, with most UAE clubs participating in the Gulf Men’s Open division of the highly-popular Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby 7’s, we are pleased to provide a strong platform for our clubs to prepare.” said Qais Al Dhalai, UAE Rugby Federation’s Secretary General. “We expect to see quality 7’s rugby played and wish all clubs an enjoyable two-day tournament.”

Franck Mesnel, founder of Eden Park commented, “Eden Park, and I, are proud of our long standing relationship with the UAE Rugby Federation. We are encouraged by the development of rugby in the GCC region and the commitment shown by the UAERF to transmit the values of the game across a wide spectrum of nationalities and level of skill. We are very pleased to see the Eden Park 7’s series become a popular, permanent fixture in the calendar, and we hope it will continue to contribute to the development of 7’s in the country, both for expatriates and UAE Nationals alike.”

After the Shaheen’s performance at the recent Dubai Airports International Sevens Tournament, Apollo Perelini (Shaheen’s 7’s and XV’s Coach) believes his team will be in a good position to capitalise on the experience and put forward another quality performance at the Eden Park 7’s. “We’ve seen reasonable progress with the local Emirati players over the past few months. And by being exposed to another high-level 7’s tournament, and participating in the Eden Park 7’s, I am confident these players will develop a stronger belief in their skills and gain more trust in their abilities. We’ll be fielding 2 (all-Emirati) Shaheen teams and the aim at series end will be to select a strong Emirati side to contest the Gulf Men’s Open division at the Dubai Rugby 7’s.” “I’m looking forward to seeing how both Shaheen sides perform at the (Eden Park 7’s) tournament.”

Alongside the action on the pitch, both Dubai Sports City and the Al Ain Rugby Club will host various fun, interactive competitions which will be open to all members of the family and where some fantastic Eden Park prizes can be won. Extensive food and beverage offerings will also be available adding to what will be two enjoyable days out. “We encourage, and look forward to all rugby supporters joining us for what will be 2 great days of domestic 7’s rugby” added Mohamed Shaker, UAERF Board Member.

Both days’ fixtures are expected to start mid-morning and spectator entry to each tournament is free.

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We interview Baptiste Liagre, a new member of the Dubai Sharks Rugby Club.

YR. Which rugby team do you play for?
BL. I play for the Dubai Sharks RFC.

YR. What position do you play?
BL. I’m currently playing loose-head prop, but I personally prefer to play tight-head prop.

YR. How long have you been in Dubai?
BL. I’ve only been playing rugby for the Sharks for two months now as I’m still new to life in Dubai.

YR. Which country did you come from and how does playing rugby here in the UAE differ from your home country?
BL. I came from France, my home country. The cultural diversity brings a lot of differences on the pitch. Compared to France, the game is really fast, always playing out wide, which is not really the kind of rugby we play in France. The rugby game is just crazy over here, it’s intense and exciting. Rugby in France is much slower, it’s more physical than technical, and forwards keep the ball a lot more. At the moment I think French rugby is old fashioned. You just need to look at the French performances in the rescent Rugby World Cup to see the proof. So it’s amazing and positive for me to learn to play with this international culture. Especially for a prop, because we are not used to playing with such ‘mobile’ and fit props in France, so I it is a great opportunity to learn with other players from all over the world.

YR. How many years have you been playing rugby?
BL. I used to play when I was younger, but I had to stop because of an injury. I came back to playing rugby two years ago where I played for my University in France.

YR. What made you choose your current rugby club?
BL. Actually, I was really lucky to find the Dubai Sharks. Before coming to Dubai, I knew that I wanted to play rugby and continue playing the sport that I love. So I tried to contact the different teams I found on Facebook, and the only reply I got was from the Dubai Sharks. They were quick to respond, and I had many questions which they were able to answer very easily. Then, 3 days after arriving in Dubai, I was able to come to my first training session. It was amazing because I didn’t know anybody in Dubai and as soon as I arrived, I was welcomed into the club like it was my family.

YR. What has been your favourite memory so far playing rugby here in the Gulf?
BL. I would have to say my first game. It was amazing because I was really feeling part of a team, and it’s an indescribable feeling, the first time you share a rugby match with your team mates, you only get this feelings playing in team sports. So being back in a rugby team is amazing, and my first game is a great memory for me.

YR. What has been your worst memory playing rugby here?
BL. Definitely my concussion. It was my first one. I was in the starting XV for the 2nd team and I was so up for the game and I just wanted to play the full 80 minutes. After 10 minutes, I was knocked out in a ruck, and I just remember a few minutes later being on the side of the pitch, I was a bit lost and dazed. It’s my worst memory because I was sad and angry to have to stop playing the game, but also the frustration of having to stop for two weeks while I recover as concussion must be taken seriously in rugby.

YR. Which team mate would you most definitely not like to be stranded in the desert with and why?
BL. I guess in the desert it would be really hard to get food… so I would say Armel van Erck, we would have too many arguments about food and who is eating what as we’re both front row forwards and both love a good feed!!

YR. Finally, what makes playing rugby so special here in Dubai and for the Sharks?
BL. The first shock for me was the heat and humidity. Then, obviously, due to the weather, you don’t have mud on the pitch, which is better because at least the game is quick flowing and not stopped by the muddy pitch. Also the cultural diversity of the teams. You have people coming from all over the world, which makes new friendships so much stronger as you wouldn’t usually get the chance to meet them as easily as being back home in France. Everybody is also out here to work or to travel so we all share the same experiences.

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Ok so here it is. I’ve decided to start playing rugby in Dubai. What have I potentially got myself into? A&E at the local Dubai hospital? Trouble with the Mrs? Or something else? Something that will be an amazing experience? Perhaps new life long friendships forged with fellow team mates? Who knows?

What I do know, is that I’m balls deep now! You see, I love rugby. I have loved rugby for as long as I can remember, and I promised a mate that I would give it another crack!

I’m a UK expat, living in Dubai since 2013 and I’m about to join a local rugby club, much to my wife’s disappointment, and think it would be a great idea to write a few blog posts about what it’s like to try playing rugby in Dubai.

A bit of history first

I’ll start with a little bit of history about my rugby playing days. Currently I’m relatively fit and healthy, but deep inside I’m a broken man. To date I’ve smashed both shoulders, suffered a broken jaw, various broken digits, numerous black eyes and plenty of bruises. Not to mention, “retired” from rugby three times and I’m only 34. Deep down I don’t think rugby players ever really retire do we? There’s always “just one more season” or that “one last match”.

The level of rugby I’ve played over the years has been ok I guess. Starting as a spritly 8 year old at  grassroots level and then colts through my teenage years first, then 1st and 2nd team rugby when I was as, I would call it, “in my prime”, followed by a couple of veteran/old timers years in and out of retirements.

Finding a local rugby club in Dubai

Before moving to Dubai from the UK, I did my research and looked at various rugby clubs that would be close to where I would be living. Due to work commitments though, I never really found the time to do any rugby training. This all changed when my close friend started playing for the local team – Dubai Sharks rugby club, who play out of Dubai Sports City which is about 10 minutes along the road.

The urge to put my rugby boots back on and walk out onto the rugby pitch again has since proved too much. I have caved in and decided to give it another craic. It wasn’t just the playing of rugby that I have missed over the years. It’s also been the close team environment and rugby banter that I have missed.

So, throughout the next series of posts I will be preparing to play for the Dubai Sharks Rugby Club, and will give you first hand accounts of what rugby life is like as an expat, living in Dubai. I will hopefully get a good insite on the level of rugby that is played out here in Dubai and the UAE and also get a taste of what the social life is like as well as answers to questions such as…. Will I die playing rugby in the Dubai heat? Can I drink after a rugby match? Is there any grass in Dubai?

Here goes….

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