Abu Dhabi rivals Saracens and Harlequins unite to honour RAK Rugby player Nick Young memory

Matt Jones 14/05/2018
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Saracens (red and black) and Quins are the only two senior teams in Abu Dhabi.

Capital city rivalry will be put aside when Abu Dhabi neighbours Saracens and Harlequins come together later this month to honour the memory of RAK Rugby player Nick Young by playing a memorial game.

Young died in the aftermath of suffering a head injury while playing at the Sharjah 10s last month. The Australian passed away in hospital on Sunday, April 29, two days after being hurt while playing for RAK’s vets side at the famous tournament.

The club announced his death on its Facebook page on the Sunday evening.

And, to demonstrate the close bond within the UAE rugby community, both Abu Dhabi clubs will play a friendly game next Thursday, May 24, under the lights at Sarries’ Al Ghazal ground, in the shadow of Abu Dhabi Airport.

The game between an Abu Dhabi Saracens Social XV and Abu Dhabi Harlequins Social XV kicks off at 19:30 and is free for all to attend.

The idea to organise the friendly derby game came fittingly from a man who has a foot in both camps, Richard Croft.

The Etihad employee moved over to play for Sarries in January, having previously played for, managed the men’s team and coached the juniors at Quins.

And Croft feels putting aside trophies and rivalries shows the depth of community felt between the two sides, as well as UAE rugby as a whole.

“We wanted to arrange it to show the depth of the game in the capital, honour Nick on behalf of UAE rugby and in general,” said Croft, 41.

“We wanted to put aside club rivalry and show support for Nick’s family from two of RAK’s friendly Community League rivals.”

Sarries were West Asia champions in 2014/15 but have since fallen on hard times. The club was only established in 2011 but could have folded on the eve of last season when they lost their Ghazal home and barely had a team, with incessant pillaging of their players as they struggled on the field threatening their very future.

But despite a tumultuous 2017/18 on the field, they survived and things are looking brighter.

And Croft said that the club know that underneath all the hostility and competition, a strong familial bond between the region’s clubs bubbles beneath the surface of Emirates rugby.

“As Sarries we have felt the brunt of hard times this season and experienced firsthand how clubs like Quins, Bahrain, (Jebel Ali) Dragons and (Dubai) Hurricanes helped and supported us,” added Derbyshire native Croft, who has lived in the UAE for a decade.

“We know what it’s like to receive support and will always give back to the game 10-fold in return. Never more so than at a time like this.

“For us as a rugby community to lose a fellow player, whether we knew him or not, is devastating.

“Besides being a competitive and friendly rivalry Sarries and Quins stand together for this fun and social game in honour of Nick and the RAK Rugby club.

“We hope to honour that and invite all rugby supporters in the region to experience Sarries v Quins’ combined hospitality at Al Ghazal for the game.”

His words were echoed by Sarries coach Pete Henderson, who said: “The initiative came from Richard so the credit really belongs to him for organising this.

“Richard is a passionate supporter, player and new member of the Sarries family. He’s been around the UAE rugby scene for many years. Many of our players were at the 10’s tournament when this tragedy happened so we’re fully behind the initiative.”

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Gloucester announce signing of Danny Cipriani from Wasps

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Danny Cipriani is moving from Wasps to Gloucester.

Gloucester have announced the signing of England fly-half Danny Cipriani.

The 30-year-old’s contract with Wasps expires at the end of the season and he has decided to remain in England as he seeks to resurrect his international career.

Cipriani, who has scored three tries and 64 points in 14 Tests, was recalled to the England squad by Eddie Jones for the summer tour of South Africa after a three-year absence.

He will move to Kingsholm after his international involvement and in time for the start of the 2018/19 Aviva Premiership season.

“We’re absolutely delighted that Danny has signed for Gloucester,” the club’s director of rugby David Humphreys told the club’s website.

“As one of the most influential and talented fly-halves in the Premiership over the past decade, the chance to sign him was simply too good an opportunity to turn down.

“He’s probably in the best form of his career, reflected in his selection in the England squad to tour South Africa, and his signing is a significant one for the club.

“Danny is very excited by the challenge of joining Gloucester and his arrival will strengthen our current options at number 10 and will complement the rest of the squad that we are still assembling for next season.

“At 30-years-old, he brings a wealth of Premiership and Champions Cup experience to Gloucester and his signing is a real statement of intent by the club to compete at the highest level in both competitions next season.”

Cipriani had received offers from France and Japan but to remain eligible for England he needed to stay in the country.

His arrival at Kingsholm will give options to head coach Johan Ackermann with Billy Burns and Owen Williams vying for the number 10 jersey, although Williams can be utilised at inside centre.

Eddie Jones has called Cipriani into his England squad for the Springboks series.

Eddie Jones has called Cipriani into his England squad for the Springboks series this summer.

Cipriani will also get the chance on the big stage in Europe with Gloucester’s Challenge Cup final appearance earning them a place in the Champions Cup next season by virtue of opponents Cardiff Blues already qualifying through the PRO14.

And the player is looking forward to the next chapter of his career.

“I’ve always enjoyed playing at Kingsholm and am excited at the prospect of spending the next few years in cherry and white and playing in front of the Shed,” he said.

“Having spoken in depth with David Humphreys and Johan Ackermann, the future they have planned for the club is enticing and one that I very much want to be part of. It’s the most exciting move of my career to date.

“I’ve still some important rugby to play for Wasps in the meantime and, when the time comes, it’s probably going to be an emotional farewell.

“But that’s the modern game, we’ll part on good terms and wish each other well for the future.

“The next chapter of my career will be as a Gloucester rugby player and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Cipriani’s replacement at Wasps has already been announced with the capture of New Zealand fly-half Lima Sopoaga.

Cipriani will sign off his Wasps career with a play-off campaign as Dai Young’s side face Saracens in the semi-final on Saturday, hoping to advance to a final against either Exeter or Newcastle.

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Wasps sign Harlequins second row Charlie Matthews following departures of James Haskell and Danny Cipriani

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Charlie Matthews has joined Wasps.

Wasps have announced the signing of Charlie Matthews from Premiership rivals Harlequins.

The 26-year-old second row moves to the Ricoh Arena having made 163 appearances for Quins following his debut in 2009.

Wasps director of rugby Dai Young told the club’s official website: “Despite still being relatively young, Charlie has plenty of Premiership and European experience under his belt.

“He is a proven operator who has performed well against us on a number of occasions.

“With Joe Launchbury, James Gaskell, Kearnan Myall and Will Rowlands already in the squad we are well-blessed with second rows and adding Charlie to that group further increases competition for places.

“We believe Charlie has untapped potential which we hope our coaches will help him to achieve. We look forward to his arrival and to working with him over the coming months.”

The 6ft 7in lock has won England Saxons honours after also representing his country at age-group level. His arrival bolsters the Wasps ranks after they saw England internationals, back rower James Haskell and fly-half Danny Cipriani, depart for Northampton and Gloucester respectively on Monday.

“After 11 years and over 150 appearances at Quins, I am looking forward to having a new challenge at Wasps,” said Matthews.

“It’s an exciting time to be heading to the Ricoh Arena as they contend for titles and trophies in the upcoming seasons.

“I would like to thank everyone at Quins for their support; I will always have fantastic memories and be very proud of my time at the club.”

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