The two teams will clash on the field tomorrow evening, but Dubai Exiles and Dubai Hurricanes will come together for the weekend to host one of the UAE and Middle East’s premier youth rugby tournaments.
The clubs jointly host the annual HSBC Mini and Youth Rugby Tournament at The Sevens Stadium tomorrow and Saturday ahead of the pair’s senior men’s sides clashing in a derby match at the same venue tomorrow night.
Former England and British & Irish Lions international Lewis Moody will be in attendance, with 3,000 players expected to take part.
Rohan Nash, of Exiles, and Canes’ Peter Clapp are joint tournament directors, and Nashis excited the tournament can play a part in growing the game of rugby in the region.
“I can’t speak for other tournaments, but many clubs in the region and beyond see our tournament as a key event to attend in their mini and youth rugby season,” said Nash.
“We have established a critical mass over the past nine years, thanks in large part to the valued support of HSBC and our other tournament sponsors.
“We also rely on the army of volunteers who provide vital support on the day as well as preparing their teams for the event.
“Mini and youth club rugby in Dubai has played a significant role in attracting many male and female players from all over the world to participate in and benefit from the wonderful game of rugby.
“With the support of the UAE Rugby Federation and schools rugby, we expect to see the game of rugby grow in the UAE and for our tournament to continue be a major fixture for years to come.”
And Nash added that Canes and Exiles are happy to put aside their rivalry for the sake of the game’s future.
“Exiles and Hurricanes put aside their friendly rivalries and decided to co-host rather than offer competing tournaments,” added Nash.
“The playing grounds of both clubs are located at the world class Sevens Stadium and sharing this venue makes co-hosting the tournament a sensible decision.
“The organising committee is made up of representatives from both clubs and the volunteers on the day consist of Hurricane and Exiles parents.”
Police were searching the headquarters of the French rugby Federation on Tuesday as part of an investigation into suspicions of favouritism concerning supremo Bernard Laporte, a source close to the case told AFP.
The search at the federation’s headquarters in Marcoussis, a southern suburb of Paris, was ordered by the public prosecutor in charge of financial cases.
Laporte, whose lawyer said the federation president’s home was also searched on Tuesday, is suspected of pressuring the FFR’s appeals committee to reduce a sanction against Montpellier, owned by businessman Mohed Altrad, who owns the Altrad Group.
He was accused of favouritism after it emerged that a company he owns had signed an image rights contract with the Altrad Group in early 2017.
He eventually pulled out of the 150,000-euro ($184,000) deal but the case was investigated by the French Sports Ministry before being passed to the public prosecutor.
This month the federation signed a major shirt sponsorship deal worth “at least 35 million euros” with the Altrad Group, an industrial equipment and services company.
Despite the continuing inquiry, Laporte said that the FFR’s ethics and deontology committee had determined the new deal with Altrad would not create a “conflict of interests”.
“Today, I take responsibility for putting a flagship of French industry on the shirt to develop our sport,” Laporte said when the deal was announced.
Laporte, a former France and Toulon coach, was French Secretary of State for Sports from 2007-09 and was elected to the top FFR post in 2016.
He has announced he will stand for re-election in 2020, which would make him the boss of French rugby when the country hosts the Rugby World Cup in 2023.
With a round of fixtures to go, the Champions Cup is all to play for with only Leinster guaranteed a place in the quarter-finals.
Here, we take a look at the three key fixtures to look forward to.
Which game are you looking forward to the most?
SARACENS VS NORTHAMPTON
With Saracens needing a bonus point victory to a secure a place in the quarter-finals, this is set up to be the most anticipated clash of the weekend.
Mark McCall’s side endured a period of poor form earlier this season – with seven straight defeats – and currently languish in third spot in the group.
Clermont and Ospreys occupy the top two positions, but a Saracens bonus point – depending on the permutations – could be enough to leapfrog the loser of that tie and guide them into the last eight.
The loss of Billy Vunipola is undoubtedly a significant blow to the home side, but the return of Maro Itoje has injected some leadership and attrition to the pack.
While many will expect a facile Sarries win, bottom of the group Northampton look a revitalised team since Alan Gaffney took charge as interim coach last month.
Although they shipped 50 points against Harlequins at the end of December, Dylan Hartley’s side have cruised to two impressive wins over Gloucester and Clermont in recent weeks.
Confidence is growing again for the Saints – and expect them to be within a score of Saracens.
WASPS VS ULSTER
Another winner takes all game.
Wasps have looked a shadow of the team that sparkled in England and Europe last season – with the loss of some marquee names due to injury.
Charles Piutau shone when Ulster beat Wasps in October – and Les Kiss will be looking for his ace winger to replicate his instrumental form as they bid to reach the last eight for the first time in four years.
A bonus point win would seal Ulster top spot in the group, while a win would be enough to hold one of the best three runner-up slots.
Wasps will be without England flanker James Haskell, who received a four-week ban for a dangerous tackle on Jamie Roberts last week.
Meanwhile, Ulster will be without the elusive Craig Gilroy who suffered a fractured cheek bone and will be out for up to six weeks.
Wasps will fight tooth and nail to punish Ulster, but expect Rory Best’s side to win by five points.
SCARLETS VS TOULON
The Welsh side produced the performance of the season against Bath last weekend, with some crisp off-loading and solid defence.
A win over Toulon on Saturday will see them leapfrog their opponents at the top of the pool, but defeat could see the Welsh region finish third – if Bath seal a bonus point win over Treviso.
In Tadhg Beirne, Ospreys boast one of the players of the tournament so far – the Irishman has made the most turnovers and has the joint best tackle rate.
If Leigh Halfpenny is fit to face his old employers then this is set up to be a thriller.
Toulon will be without their barrelling centre Mathieu Bastareaud who received a four week ban for a homophobic slur towards a fellow player last week.
Scarlets will need to get their hands on the ball and force an early breakthrough if they are to beat the French giants.
Stephen Jones’ side are more than capable of pulling off an upset – and a chance to book their place in the knock-out stages of the competition.