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  • 29 Mar 2022 10:42 PM | David Jacobs (Administrator)

    It is with extreme sadness that we have to announce the shocking news of the passing of David Thom. 

    For those of you who were lucky to have known David or have had the pleasure of meeting him you will know what a fantastic person he was. David, & his wife Rachel, son's Callum & Lewis have all been staunch supporters of Abu Dhabi Harlequins & volunteered for so many roles over the years. David was always positive, social, loved to joke & loved to share stories & just enjoyed chatting in general. He was one of those people I would say that is the glue of the rugby club & the wider community, people like David & Rachel are the people that make the club what it is, he will be sorely missed by all that knew him. 

    I would ask that you join me in your thoughts & prayers at this very difficult time for his wife Rachel & their son's Callum & Lewis. Please extend your support to them as their extended family here in Abu Dhabi.

  • 12 Mar 2022 10:36 PM | David Jacobs (Administrator)

    Credit: Paul Radley, Yalla Rugby

    Arabian gulf rugby

    The early representative matches of the Arabian Gulf rugby team were played on the sand at the old Dubai Exiles ground in Al Awir. Photo: Andy Cole

    Switch to Saturday fixtures will be a small amendment to a ritual that was unique to the sport in the region

    In all truth, when Dubai Tigers and Dubai Exiles renew acquaintances in the UAE Premiership this weekend at Dubai Sports City, little will feel different.

    The ball will still be a prolate spheroid made of rubber-polyester. The weather will likely be fair, and the grass green.

    And yet the fixture will be quietly ushering in a new era. From now on, amateur players across the country will be getting their regular rugby fix on a Saturday, after a history spent waiting for Friday to come.

    League fixtures will be resuming for the first time since the government announced the move to a four-and-a-half day, Monday to Friday working week.

    Although the change will scarcely be noticeable, it has left some to reflect on the alteration to a ritual that was unique to the Gulf.

    “In the old days the weekends with Thursday-Friday, so we had to work Saturdays, and on a Friday there used to only be one flight in and one flight out with Gulf Air, not like today where there are several,” said Andy Cole, the long-serving chairman of Abu Dhabi Harlequins.

    “Sometimes you might fly out, then on the way back a group of dignitaries might have decided to join the flight to the UAE from, for example, Bahrain, and a number of players would be bumped off the flight.”

    “We would have to talk to each other and work out who would lose their job if they didn’t make it to work tomorrow.”

    “Then players with families would want to get back to make sure their kids and wives weren’t worried. It was like a lottery to narrow down who was going to go home.”

    Cole first joined the capital’s oldest rugby club, who were then known as the Abu Dhabi Bats, for the 1991-92 season.

    In his first season, matches were played on a stretch of beach at low tide, near where the Ritz Carlton Hotel is now situated. The pitch markings were drawn by hand by volunteers, who poured lime powder from cups, following a line of string.

    “When the referee arrived and started the game you could see the lines, but after 15 or 20 minutes they had either blown away or been trodden on and you couldn’t make them out at all,” Cole said.

    Although Covid-19 has meant cross-border travel is now limited for weekend rugby, the majority of the game’s history in the region involved clubs travelling to away fixtures in Bahrain, Doha, Muscat, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

    Often, the challenges of getting to away games was significant, according to Cole.

    “Back when it was Thursday-Friday weekends, you had to request your passport from your employers,” Cole said. “Often, players would arrive at the airport and realise they had forgotten their passports. It wasn’t as if they could nip home to get it, as it was still in the office."

    “A lot of the time you would end up flying without enough players. Sometimes we would charter our own flights on a small plane, a Twin Otter which was used to fly people in and out of the desert or oil workers in and out of the islands.”

    “One of the pilots would play for us, and the co-pilot would fly us home if the pilot got injured.”

    Mansour al Zaabi Harlequins club captain

    Mansour Al Zaabi, who became the first Emirati club captain of an established team and also played mate appearances for the Yalla Barbarians select team.

    Perhaps the players who will notice the effect of the switch to Saturday kick offs will be those who no longer need to rush to games straight from Friday worship.

    “It used to be tight, to be honest,” said Mansour Al Zaabi, who became the first Emirati club captain of an established team when he was appointed to the role with Abu Dhabi Harlequins.

    “Sometimes we used to have matches kicking off at 1pm or 2pm, and you would barely have time between finishing your prayers and rushing to the game.”

    “That is how it used to be. Now we can have a properly chilled Friday, enjoy it with the family, then have Saturday fully available for rugby.”

    Al Zaabi took to rugby after discovering the game while researching new sports to play.

    “I saw rugby and I thought, ‘Is that sport even played over here?’ I got in touch with Harlequins, and started there,” he said. Four years later, he was invited to be the club captain.

    The loosehead prop reckons the new ritual of Saturday rugby might take a little getting used to, but he thinks it will offer teams greater flexibility.

    “I don’t see why games still can’t be played on Fridays and people could still have the remaining two days of the weekend if they want to,” Al Zaabi said.

    “The weekends are longer now, and people will have more time to spend with their families over the weekend. It will be interesting to see how it is going to be and how long it will take people to get used to it.”

  • 5 Dec 2021 12:54 PM | David Jacobs (Administrator)


    dubai exiles rugby sevens 1981

    Dubai Exiles Rugby Sevens – 1981. Courtesy: Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens

    One of the highlights on the UAE sports calendar is back after 726 days and the event’s oldest club is confident of their chances

    It feels fitting the UAE’s longest running, and arguably most popular, sporting event should return after its lengthiest ever break on the country’s 50th anniversary.

    The Emirates Dubai Sevens is being restored to its traditional place on the sporting calendar on National Day weekend.

    By the time spectators start pouring back through the gates on Thursday morning, it will have been 726 days since they were last admitted to the weekend rugby festival.

    The Covid pandemic achieved something last year, that even two Gulf Wars failed to do, in causing the Sevens to be cancelled. Never in its history had that happened before.

    And that is a history which predates the formation of the country itself. A tournament which started out as the Benson and Hedges Dubai 7s Rugby Tournament was first played in 1970.

    It was an invitation competition in rugby’s abridged format arranged by Dubai Exiles, the country’s oldest rugby club.

    Other than the hosts, the participating teams were mainly Sharjah-based British military teams. The matches were played on sand pitches raked smooth, with stones removed beforehand, and lines marked with bitumen.

    The difference to the present day is vast. Grass pitches were installed in 1996, then the tournament was uprooted entirely from its former home at The Exiles in Al Awir to the new site on the Al Ain Road in 2009.

    The tournament’s founders are much changed, too. For a start, no longer are the Exiles owners of the tournament. They are, though, the pre-eminent force in domestic rugby, having won successive titles in the XVs format. They contributed four players to the UAE squad which competed in the recent Asia Sevens Series, and they are optimistic of their chances of regaining the Gulf Men’s League title for the first time since 2017.

    “I really enjoyed that year,” said Carel Thomas, the Exiles scrum-half who was one of the standout players who won the plate in the Asia Sevens Series tournament in Dubai last month.

    “It was my first year when I moved over to the Exiles to play in the uae Premiership [in XVs]. That year we did very well in the sevens tournament as well.”

    “I think we stand a good chance this year. At the Exiles we have four players that represented the UAE in the Sevens Series, or who at least were in the set up, so I think we have a chance.”

    “But sevens is a tricky game. One wrong bounce of the ball and you don’t get the opportunity again, but I do think we have a strong team this year and we could be capable of going through to the final.”

    Dubai Rugby Sevens History in Pictures


    Early Dubai 7s 1970 gulf rugby

    Courtesy Peter Thomas

    An early Dubai Rugby Sevens tournament, started by the Dubai Exiles RFC. The tournament was birthed in 1970, when the host club, Dubai Exiles, invited sides to play a competition in rugby’s abridged format. The invitees included teams from the British armed forces, who were happy for the break from garrison duties in what was then the Trucial States. The Exiles were the leading force in the early years of Gulf rugby.

    1990 dubai rugby sevens final

    ALLSPORT/ Getty

    Dubai Exiles Rugby Sevens, December 1981. France have never won the Sevens. The closest they have got was when Les Bleus lost the 2011 final to England. But French hands have been on the Emirates International Trophy before, when Toulouse won the main competition in 1990.

    first dubai sevens sand pitches

    Photo Credit: Peter Thomas

    The first Dubai sevens games were played on sand pitches.

    sand rugby pitch dubai desert

    Courtesy: ALLSPORT/ Getty

    Some people get wistful about the old days of playing on sand. Others only remember the pain. “It was like playing in flour with bits of brick in it,” Mike Jackson, a former Dubai Hurricanes player, said of the experience. “Then you would get nicks and cuts that would go septic.”

    south korea vs warblers 1994

    Courtesy: ALLSPORT

    The tournament was played on sand up until 1995, when the pitches at the old Dubai Exiles ground were turfed thanks to huge investment by Emirates Airline. In the last final on sand in 1994, South Korea beat the Warblers 21-20.

    dan carter waterboy stefans bhf

    Dan Carter – waterboy for Stefan’s BHF

    Dubai was one of the legs of the new World Sevens Series formed in 1999. Even though both the event and the series have become increasingly formalised since, the best known faces are often to be seen with the amateur teams on the outside fields. Like in 2006, when the reigning world player of the year Dan Carter was waterboy for Stefan’s BHF.

    al awir dubai

    Al Awir – Dubai

    The tournament relocated from its original home in Al Awir to a new purpose-built site further into the desert in 2008. The new Sevens Stadium played host to that year’s Sevens, and also staged the format’s World Cup in 2009.

    Ben Ryan - Fiji 2013

    Ben Ryan – Fiji Sevens

    Nobody has tasted success in the international tournament at the Sevens more often than coach Ben Ryan. The Londoner oversaw wins with England in 2010 and 2011, then with Fiji in 2013 and 2015.

    Carlos Spencer - J9 Legends

    Photo Credit: Jake Badger

    Rarely have more stars shared a field at the Sevens than when union royalty J9 Legends faced rugby league all-stars Joining Jack in the Vets event in 2013. It pitted the likes of Carlos Spencer, Stephen Larkham and Waisale Serevi against Jason Robinson and Andy Farrell.

    Joost Van der Westhuizen

    Photo Credit: Jake Badger

    J9 Legends made the final that season, but were beaten by Xodus Steelers in a classic encounter on Pitch 1. It was memorable less for the match, as the emotional scenes after, when J9 captain Serevi pushed Joost van der Westhuizen, who was stricken by motor neuron disease, through a guard of honour.

    Bradley Wiggins - Dubai

    Bradley Wiggins – Dubai Rugby Sevens Waterboy

    A year earlier, in 2012, Joining Jack had a celebrity fanboy running on water for their players. Bradley Wiggins had recently won the Tour de France and Olympic Gold, and was days away from being named BBC Sports Personality of the Year. A knighthood was in the offing, too.

    Owen Farrell - Joining Jack

    Owen Farrell – Joining Jack

    Joining Jack, a charity side that raises awareness of Duchenne muscular dystrophy, do a good line in celebrity fans. In 2015, Owen Farrell struck a notable figure on the sideline, while supporting father Andy in the Vets tournament.

    Maggie Alphonsi

    Photo Credit: Satish Kumar

    One of the greats of England rugby, Maggie Alphonsi, played for Tribe 7s in the Invitational Open in 2014. “Maggie the Machine” was not the only World Cup-winner on the outside fields that season, either. Steve Thompson, the hooker for the 2003 champions England, played for Gulf Legends in the International Vets.

    Thom Evans UR7s Wanderers - 2015

    Photo Credit: Victor Besa

    In 2015, former Scotland wing Thom Evans danced past a load of defenders to score a try for UR7s Wanderers in the International Open on Pitch 2. It was his first touch of the ball on his return to the game after five years out with a serious neck injury while on international duty.

    Speranza 22

    Photo Credit: Rory Greene

    Perhaps the most poignant victory in all 50 years of Dubai Sevens tournaments came in 2017, when Speranza 22 won the final of the International Invitational. The team had been set up in memory of Marcos Speranza, who had won the Gulf Under 19 title with Abu Dhabi Harlequins but later died in an air crash in his native Argentina.

    al maha rugby

    Photo Credit: Antonie Robertson

    The Al Maha team made history when they competed in the Gulf U18 Girls tournament by becoming the first all-Emirati female side to play at the Dubai Rugby Sevens.

    Dubai Hurricanes - Gulf Mens Winners

    Photo Credit: Chris Whiteoak

    Dubai Hurricanes’ bid for a hat-trick of Gulf Men’s League trophies will have to wait until next year. They won back-to-back titles in 2018 and 2019.

    50 year rugby tournament dubai

    Photo Credit: Victor Besa

    The incredible 50-year journey of Dubai Rugby Sevens embodies the spirit of the city.

    Victor Besa / The National

    This story was originally published on The National by Paul Radley.

    01/12/21/BY PAUL RADLEY

  • 30 Aug 2021 5:09 PM | David Jacobs (Administrator)

    Registration for 2021-2022 is now open



    Junior training will start on 19th September at Zayed Sports City

    We're pleased to say that training will resume as normal for all age groups

    We look forward to welcoming new members and welcoming back previous members after what has been a rough 12 months

  • 12 May 2020 8:54 PM | David Jacobs (Administrator)

    So what have YOU been up to in quarantine? The U10s have been busy!

  • 24 Dec 2019 9:43 AM | David Jacobs (Administrator)

    We are heartbroken to inform the Club that Stephen Smith, our U19 coach, passed away on 23rd December 2019 around 6am UAE time.

    Stephen contracted Hepatitis A and after a good fight he unfortunately succumbed to liver failure, compounded by other complications.

    Stephen was in Ireland for the Christmas holidays and his friends there are working to repatriate him to New Zealand as soon as possible for a Maori funeral.

    Stephen was a valued coach for the U19s and will be sorely missed. Our heartfelt condolences go out to Stephen's family and friends at this difficult time.

  • 7 Oct 2019 8:53 PM | David Jacobs (Administrator)

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

    Click here for more...

  • 30 Sep 2019 10:19 AM | David Jacobs (Administrator)

    Vacancy: Assistant Coach - Senior Teams

    Abu Dhabi Harlequins are seeking to expand their senior squad coaching team for the coming season(s). The successful applicant shall work alongside the Head Coach and be responsible for delivering coaching elements as directed by the Head Coach.There will also be a particular focus on helping to develop individual skills throughout the squad. You shall also provide key feedback to individual players on performance feeding into the selection process.

    Key Responsibilities for the role include:


    In conjunction with the Head Coach prepare a season development plan with both macro and micro development cycles


    Plan and deliver individual training sessions linking into the season development plan objectives


    Develop individual player skills to benefit both the player and the team

     - Evaluation of Individual player & team Performance to feedback into player development & coaching plans


    Make team selections along with the Head Coach in liaison with the Senior XV coaches


    Taking an active role pitch side at home and away fixtures with the 1st XV & 2nd XV

     - Provide feedback to Abu Dhabi Harlequins Board of Directors through regular discussions with the Director of Rugby

    The successful candidate will preferably be qualified to World Rugby (or equivalent) Level 2 or have a good playing background, and be willing to work toward World Rugby Level 3. Abu Dhabi Harlequins shall support and encourage you in your coaching development with UAE CPD attendance encouraged. You shall also be able to demonstrate high personal standards, good communication and motivational skills while providing strong leadership.

    Training takes place at Zayed Sports City at 7pm on Monday and Wednesday with games on Friday and expectation will be for the successful candidate to attend all where possible.

    This position is a non paid role (however reasonable expenses will be covered) and is an ideal opportunity for someone to step into coaching either in the latter stages of their playing career or for someone wishing to develop their existing coaching skills further.

    Applicants should send a coaching CV and covering email to our Director of Rugby at dor@abudhabiquins.com to discuss and apply for the position.

  • 11 Sep 2019 1:01 AM | David Jacobs (Administrator)

    Want to be part of the action?

    Think you've got what it takes?

    At the heart of the Quins rugby club is a small, dedicated and tireless group of people who call themselves 'The Committee'. They basically run the show, organising everything from memberships and the finances to matches and the medical arrangements.

    The Committee currently has two vacancies which urgently need to be filled, and would like to encourage anyone who feels they can help in either of these roles:

    Commercial Officer:

    Responsible for maintaining existing relationships with sponsors, making sure they deliver against their promises, and actively seeking out new sponsors and identifying new opportunities, financial or otherwise. Anything that can save the club money or generate revenue is most definitely on the table!

    Junior Manager:

    Responsible for the smooth running of pretty much everything to do with the Junior teams (U5-U18). Matches, pitch bookings, communicating with Team Managers & Coaches, training schedules....you name it! This often means making sure that other Committee and Club members do what's required of them, but also needs a hands-on approach and someone with great organisational skills. Multi-tasking is the name of the game here!

    For more information don't hesitate to contact Lisa Irwin at secretary@abudhabiquins.com

  • 3 Sep 2019 1:02 PM | David Jacobs (Administrator)

    A huge congratulations to 3 of our players who have been selected to represent the UAE at a national level. This is a massive achievement for these players and is also testament to the quality, dedication and sportsmanship of the wider team, coaches, managers and club as a whole.

    Good luck boys!

    From right to left:

    Luke Stevenson, Ashbey Williams, Esekaia Dranibota

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