For a team that play in dazzling orange it’s fitting that the future once again looks bright for Arabian Knights – who have announced Henry Paul is set to take charge of their mini and youth section.
Former dual code international Paul remains director of rugby at Jebel Ali Dragons and his involvement with Knights is confined to their thriving junior section, where he takes on the role of mini and youth skills director.
The section has become so popular that the club has been forced to advise parents in some oversubscribed age groups to take their children to other clubs in Dubai.
It’s a far cry from the beginning of the summer when the future looked bleak for a lot of rugby clubs in the UAE – none more so than Knights.
Knights, along with Dubai Sharks, were told to search for a new home in July when they were informed access to their long-time home of Dubai Sports City would be heavily restricted in 2017/18 with the emergence of the DSC-based Dubai Eagles.
Now, in addition to the deal struck with Paul, Knights have also found a new realm to roam at Kings School Al Barsha in Umm Suqeim.
One of the most popular clubs in the Emirates, Knights are also probably the most instantly recognisable due to their bright orange playing strips.
And despite all the turbulence surrounding rugby in the country over the last few months, Knights are proving that the UAE rugby community is fighting fit.
“We are excited to announce that after much discussion ex-England 15s and sevens international and New Zealand league player Henry Paul will be joining us as part of the mini and youth of the Arabian Knights,” said club chairwoman Louise Palmer.
“I have known HP for a number of years, since he played for the CNCF Legends team as part of the International Vets tournament in the Dubai Sevens.
“We think it is great to have someone with the same beliefs and ethos joining us as part of our club. Our mini and youth is a strong section of our community and with the skills that Henry brings, he can only help us go from strength to strength.
“Initially he will be coaching the U19 squad and implementing an Arabian Knights skills sessions programme as part of our mini and youth after school schedule which will be available to Kings Al Barsha students and Arabian Knights mini and youth members, and all based at easily accessible Kings Barsha School on Umm Suqeim Road.
“Henry has a number of responsibilities in the rugby community of the UAE and we are glad to have him join the club to help us to continue developing rugby here in the UAE.”
Knights were founded by Louise’s late husband, Neil, in 2008 and despite not having a team in the top tier West Asia or UAE Premiership, the boast boast the second highest number of players in the UAE next to Abu Dhabi Harlequins.
Statistics released by the UAE Rugby Federation earlier this summer revealed Knights had 574 registered players last season compared to Quins’ 775 – although the Knights website says the club is more than 600 strong.
With Paul on board and a venue secured for senior and junior teams to play their home games, Knights will hope to continue moving forward.
“After we were advised by Dubai Sports City Rugby Park management that we would no longer be able to have any midweek pitch hire and our weekend pitch hires were put under a cloud of uncertainty we had to take a path that provided more stability for our members and further growth potential for the club,” added Palmer.
“We were saddened by this change in the relationship with Dubai Sports City. Fortunately for the Arabian Knights, Kings Al Barsha provided an opportunity to move to a facility with a newly expanded grass pitch within their grounds, fantastic location and a management team that are working closely with us and the UAE RF to provide an environment suitable for sanctioned matches in Dubai.
“After a summer of uncertainty the Arabian Knights have started the season in a very positive mode with our seniors and now mini and youth able to get out and train and get back to doing what we enjoy. As we say #GetyourOrangeon #NP15.”