UAE strikes historic TV deal that will see highlights broadcast

Matt Jones 19/01/2016
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The people behind the deal.

Clubs have unanimously backed the UAE Rugby Show, which will broadcast weekly highlights of the domestic game and national team matches from the first week of February.

The UAE Rugby Federation and Dubai Sports Channel yesterday finalised a two-year agreement that will see a weekly broadcast during the UAE rugby season.

The 30-minute show will offer highlights from the previous two weeks of UAE Premiership, Conference and Community League matches, as well as all the action from the cross-border West Asia Championship.

There will also be regular spots focusing on the various UAE national teams, Emirati development, club and player features and more.

“This is what rugby in the UAE needs,” said Al Ain Amblers director of rugby, Rocco de Bruyn.

“I don’t think people realise the importance media coverage plays in sport, especially if you are still in the developing stages of introducing a new code to a country.

“This is definitely a step in the right direction.”

“Long term I feel this is something that will help clubs become professional, that is the direction the sport is heading,” said Jebel Ali Dragons director of rugby, Paul Hart.

“This will simply speed up the process. This is a fantastic step forward for the sport in the region. It’s also a huge boost for clubs seeking sponsors.”

Secretary general of the UAE RF, Qais Al Dhalai said: “This is another exciting first for UAE Rugby. Our rugby community, from both the expatriate and the Emirati, is rich in interesting stories. We are confident the weekly show will be well received and supported by all and become an integral part of the wider UAE Rugby community’s week”.

Rashid Amiri, director general of Dubai Sports Channel, added: “Our team at Dubai Sports Channel is committed to producing a quality, interesting show that will connect local and expatriate viewers with relevant rugby content (and) will boost the efforts and profile of UAE Rugby across our platform.”

The UAE Rugby Show will be broadcast in English and will offer Arabic subtitles.

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Doha full of dynamite in early rounds of West Asia Championship

Matt Jones 18/01/2016
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Aaron McLelland (c) in action for Doha against AD Saracens in the West Asia Cup final last season.

Rugby is a team sport but early West Asia Championship pacesetters Doha showed in defeating Abu Dhabi Saracens on Friday night they possess several outstanding individual talents which make them serious contenders to win the inaugural competition.

Doha gained a small slice of revenge for their West Asia Cup heartbreak suffered at the hands of Sarries 10 months ago while possibly ending the UAE side’s bid to ret-ain their crown with a thrilling 31-22 win under the Al Ghazal lights.

Livewire full-back Aaron McLelland, fly-half Brook Tremayne and pack leader Caine Elisara are three such stars that could help erase the pain of that madcap March 20 day when Sarries became West Asia Cup champions with an enthralling 26-20 victory in Qatar.

Revenge was sweet for the visitors but tasted bitter for the hosts, with most of the damage done by the fleet-footed full-back who scored two tries.

McLelland served notice of his talent when he fielded a kick and ran it back 70 metres in the blink of an eye for the game’s opening try after just four minutes.

His second restored Doha’s lead and authority just as Sarries were beginning to stamp their mark on proceedings, and head coach Aaron Palmer is delighted to have him at his disposal.

“We know we have him out at the back and that’s how best we use him,” said the New Zealander, who admitted he has a few superstars on his hands.  “The Gulf knows who he is now after last season and the space closes on him a bit earlier these days so we have to figure out a way to utilise his pace and skill.

“That’s using our forward pack to bring him in so it is a team game. When we get our team operating, to give those individuals a chance, then they can take them. That’s what we have to constantly do.”

Two more worth a mention are veteran No8 Elisara and string-puller Tremayne.

“I’ve known Caine a long time now, we played in Europe together and against each other,” said Palmer of a player who also acts as assistant and forwards coach.

“He was looking for somewhere to go (before the season) and we had an opportunity to bring some people over to Qatar and I got him in.

“He’s got miles on the clock, he knows the game. He’s out there and controls the pack. He coaches them during the week and having him on the park is a bonus.

“He has that aura to be able to lead and with Clarky (captain Jamie Clarke), they work in tandem to make sure we’re going in the right direction.

“At the same time he’s got the skill level, he’s got these big mits and usually just carries the ball one handed. He knows what to do.”

As for Tremayne, he went from looking ordinary against Sarries – missing two straightforward penalties to allow the hosts a way back into the contest – to the sublime, nervously sinking two late conversions from the touchline.

“I think it was in his head. He asked if we had another kicker and I said no, you’re the kicker. You can kick. He took it on board and thanked me after the game, and he nailed two from the line. I expect that from him,” said Palmer.

Of Doha’s 11 tries in a 67-33 vict-ory over Al Ain Amblers on the opening day, the imposing Elisara incredibly scored eight. He had to make do with one this week but in a closer contest, he admitted he was happier with the one against Sarries.

“That was a bit lucky to be honest,” the modest man mountain said of his feat the previous week.

“It was once in a lifetime and I don’t think I’ll do it again. This one was a lot more important. We’re two from two so it’s a good start.”

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Fiji legend Waisale Serevi on a mission to inspire youths in Dubai

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World Cup winner: Waisale Serevi.

Former Fiji star Serevi will be attending the event at The Sevens Stadium on Friday and Saturday, as a special guest of HSBC and he will be on hand to support and guide the UAE’s grassroots players who can learn from his experience and utilise his advice.

Serevi is widely regarded as one of the greatest sevens players of all time, having won the Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament with Fiji in 1997 and 2005. He is also the World Sevens Series’ fourth highest points scorer with 1,310.

“I’m thrilled to be returning to the UAE to connect with the passionate young rugby players and it’s my mission to inspire their performances, helping to further instil in them the positive messages the sport of rugby embodies,” Serevi said.

“With rugby branching out to new audiences as fans look ahead to sevens’ involvement in the Rio Olympics, 2016 is a golden opportunity for the development of the sport and the HSBC Rugby Festival Dubai is the perfect platform for young players in the UAE to mature, enhance and showcase their skills.

“Previously it has always been a rewarding experience for me to work with the future stars in Dubai and I can’t wait to pass on my knowledge for the benefit of them and the sport of rugby.”

This year’s edition looks set to be the biggest yet, building on last year’s success which saw 220 teams and more than 4,500 players competing.

A long-time supporter of rugby, HSBC’s opening up the sport through events such as the HSBC Rugby Festival Duba offers a unique opportunity for young players in Dubai and across the UAE.

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