UAE rugby community pays tribute to tragic RAK Rugby player Nick Young following his death

Matt Jones 1/05/2018
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The UAE rugby community has seen an outpouring of tributes and well-wishes, as it stands united in grief following the death of RAK Rugby player Nick Young.

UAE national team coach Apollo Perelini led the tributes to Young, believed to be in his forties, who died on Sunday following a head injury suffered while playing for RAK’s vets side at the famous Sharjah 10s tournament on Friday.

Young, who had reportedly only played a handful of games for the Ras Al Khaimah-based side, had to be resuscitated on the pitch at Sharjah Wanderers Sports Club following the incident, before being transferred to a local hospital, with his tragic passing announced by the club on Sunday evening.

Messages of condolence have poured out on social media from clubs around the UAE and beyond, with many sending emails and contacting the club directly in the aftermath of the tragedy – with Abu Dhabi Harlequins even merging the RAK logo with theirs on their own Facebook page in a show of solidarity.

Even though many did not know Young, the bond rugby forges among everyone involved in the sport – despite most being thousands of miles away from their homes in the UAE’s huge expatriate community – has been evident in the days following Young’s death.

“Everyone at Quins sends their condolences to his family, RAK and the rugby family,” said Quins head coach Mike McFarlane.

“It’s such a sad loss when all he was doing was playing the sport we love. I think the reaction on social media, including the logo on our Facebook which combines the Quins and RAK symbols, shows how close the rugby family is here in the UAE and how everyone is ready to help each other wherever they can.”

Nick Young.

Nick Young.

Dubai Exiles captain Durandt Gerber has also been touched by the reaction within UAE rugby circles.

“I did not know him but it’s very sad news. It shows us that contact sport is still a dangerous thing but I am pretty sure, with Nick still playing at his age, he loved the game and he went out doing what he loved,” said the South African former Italy ‘A’ fly-half.

“I always tell people ‘give it your all each game you play’ as you never know when it will be your last, whether it be because of injury or something else.

“This shows us again how the rugby community has come together to support the family and send condolences. There have been so many messages on various groups with people pouring their hearts out and asking how they can help in any way.”

Global rugby chiefs have taken huge strides in recent years to make the game safer.

In England, an eight-point plan was announced in March after their annual injury audit found a rise in the number and severity of injuries in the English professional game – with concussion the most reported match injury for a sixth straight season last year.

But by its very definition rugby is a contact sport, and one of the most ferocious ones at that.

Former dual code international Perelini added: “I didn’t know Nick, however I am saddened by his passing and my condolences to his family.

“It is very sad to hear of someone passing through playing our game. Especially through the collision part of rugby, which we have tried hard to clean up to make it safer for everyone involved.”

The tragedy has put everything that has happened on the pitch for RAK this season, one of their most successful, into shocking perspective.

RAK Rugby celebrate winning the plate at the Barrelhouse 10s tournament last month.

RAK Rugby celebrate winning the plate at the Barrelhouse 10s tournament last month.

Rugby was played in Ras Al Khaimah as long ago as 1969 but in the 36 years between the club being created in 1982 and today, the team had flitted in and out of sight.

The club resurfaced most recently in 2013, having had no official involvement in the Emirate for seven years.

But a lot of hard work from outgoing chairman Mike Silvester and new man Simon Williams led to a season of stability in 2016/17, RAK finishing fourth in the UAE’s third-tier Community League, recording five wins in eight games and just missing out on a final.

Things edged ahead again in 2017/18, a consecutive fourth-place finish earned, this time with six wins from nine games seeing the club finishing just seven and eight points adrift respectively of Quins 3rds and Jebel Ali Dragons 3rds who reached the league final.

RAK Rugby have come a long way from the days of playing on a sand pitch.

RAK Rugby have come a long way from the days of playing on a sand pitch.

Two seasons ago, Dragons’ Mike Hayel remembers shoveling 60 points on RAK on their famous, now former, sand pitch.

This year, the team, who have made the final in each of the first three seasons of the Community League, were given a much sterner test as they won 46-26 to inflict one of only three defeats on RAK.

“It’s so sad. It’s a tragedy, not only for Gulf rugby, but rugby in general. It’s a really sad situation,” Dragons’ Welsh skipper said of Young’s death.

“We played RAK a few seasons ago on their sand pitch and put 60 points on them. From that to this season they were in contention right up until the end, so what they’ve done as a club is amazing.

“I think I probably played against Nick. It was a tough game this year, they came down to us. As a club they’re fantastic and have come on massively, even since last season. The difference is phenomenal.”

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Scarlets swoop for scrum-halves Sam Hidalgo-Clyne and Kieran Hardy to compete with Gareth Davies

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Sam Hidalgo-Clyne is heading south to Scarlets.

Scarlets have announced the signings of Scotland international Sam Hidalgo-Clyne and his fellow scrum-half Kieran Hardy in a double swoop.

The duo will help provide options at number nine, with Scarlets’ first-choice Gareth Davies a Wales regular and his understudy Aled Davies moving to the Ospreys this summer.

Hidalgo-Clyne, 24, joins from Edinburgh, while the 22-year-old Hardy – who came up through the youth ranks at Scarlets and made his professional debut for the region in 2014 – has been plying his trade for English Championship side Jersey.

Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac said: “We’re delighted to be in a position to welcome both Kieran and Sam to the Scarlets.

“Kieran makes a return to his home region having had a couple of seasons to continue his development in the Championship, with Sam bringing with him a wealth of Guinness PRO14 and international experience from Edinburgh.

“With Aled moving on and Gareth away during the international window it’s important to have strength in depth in each position.”

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Lions player Jaco Kriel signs for Gloucester

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South African international Jaco Kriel will be reunited with former coach Johan Ackermann after signing for Premiership side Gloucester on Monday.

The 28-year-old – who captained Lions to successive Super Rugby finals – has not played since he sustained a shoulder injury against Australia last September.

The 11-time capped Springboks back-rower will be unavailable for several months after undergoing a second operation on the shoulder in March.

Despite this Gloucester’s director of rugby David Humphreys said he had been given assurances Kriel would be fit.

“Jaco’s record in his career so far speaks for itself, and he is a player that Johan rates very highly,” Humphreys told the club website.

“He will understand immediately what Johan expects from his players, and the style of play that we are trying to promote.

“Jaco was one of the leading players for the Lions during their development as a squad, and their drive to two Super Rugby finals, and has also been a real star in the Springbok jersey.”

Aside from the two Super Rugby finals – losing 20-3 to the Hurricanes in 2016 and then 25-17 to the Crusaders last year – Kriel also skippered the Golden Lions to Currie Cup success in 2015 when they were coached by Ackermann.

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