Dubai Knights Eagles will be hosting an open day this Friday, September 6, following this summer’s merger between Dubai Eagles and Arabian Knights.
The club’s culture ensures everyone is welcome, whether they have experience in rugby or not, with registrations taking place at The Dome, Dubai Sports City, ahead of the official start of the upcoming season.
There will be plenty of entertainment taking place, with rugby games planned and a selection of food and beverage stands on offer. All those visiting will have the chance to meet with members of the club and see the facilities first-hand.
Vijay Sajjanhar, chief financial officer of Dubai Sports City, said: “Ahead of the new rugby season, I am sure all those signing up at our open day will have an active fun-filled time and see what we have to offer.
“The newly formed Dubai Knights Eagles speaks loudly in regards to our commitment at Dubai Sports City to ensure rugby as a sport flourishes in the UAE. I hope all of those signing up in September will be able to look back next summer on a season full of unforgettable memories.”
Also present at the open day will be Josh Ives, who was recently unveiled as the new head coach of the Knights Eagles, ahead of the club’s first official game of the season in the West Asia Premiership on Friday, October 4.
Ives has a strong rugby background having been involved with the Dubai Eagles since they were formed while he previously coached with Apollo Perelini’s Rugby Academy, where he was the head skills coach for six years.
His own personal playing experience includes the UAE 15s and 7s national sides, England rugby schools and Northampton Saints.
Speaking about the appointment, director of rugby Sean Carey said: “Our rugby club may only be recently formed, but Josh’s appointment and his commitment to continue from the Dubai Eagles shows just how serious we are about the upcoming season.
“Josh is a fantastic coach, with extensive experience as a coach in the UAE and as a player for the national team in both 15s and 7s. We believe his appointment is the right one to bring Dubai Knights Eagles success in the short, medium and long term.”
Preparation for the new season is already well under way for both the men’s and women’s teams. Training began back in July where both teams spent six weeks in the Powerbase Gym and The Dome focusing on rugby specific strength and conditioning programme.
With the weather now cooling, the Knights Eagles men’s side has begun conducting training sessions at Sports Park where the teams train every Monday and Wednesday at 7pm. The men’s side has a friendly scheduled against Al Ain this Friday, September 6, with 65 players having turned up for pre-season training already.
The women’s team is also in regular training with sessions taking place on Monday’s at 7pm and Wednesday’s at 8pm, with their first tournament scheduled to take place on Friday, September 27.
The new club’s kit has also been announced and will feature the orange of the Arabian Knights and the green of the Dubai Eagles. Avtrade has joined as a kit sponsor, alongside the club’s current sponsor ALTRAD.
The consolidation of the two clubs will create the third largest club in the region. For further information about the Knights Eagles visit the following link dkerugby.com or @dkerugby on Instagram and Facebook.
They may have lost all but one of their five games, but Apollo Perelini believes his UAE squad can achieve a top-four finish at the 2019 Asia Rugby Sevens Series.
The UAE finished seventh of eight teams in South Korea on Sunday, claiming a morale-boosting 31-5 triumph against Chinese Taipei in their final game of the weekend.
At first glance, four defeats does not seem encouraging, but the fact that Perelini’s men competed in every single game – their heaviest defeat was a credible 29-7 scoreline against continental heavyweights Japan – will encourage both coach and his players.
After a tough start against Japan in Pool A on Saturday, the UAE went down to narrow defeats against China (24-14) and Sri Lanka (21-17) before they were edged out by the Philippines 21-19 in their knockout round encounter on Sunday.
They finished with a 31-5 victory over Taipei – their victory was tellingly bigger than the margin in any of their four defeats – while destructive Dubai Hurricanes centre Sakiusa Naisau finished joint-top try-scorer over the weekend with six scores, level with host nation Korea’s Jeong Min-jang.
And Perelini believes his UAE team will only get better as the tournament progresses – the UAE head to China in two weeks before wrapping up the series in Sri Lanka at the end of the month.
“I think we’re going to get better. We’re playing for a top-four finish and I really believe we can achieve that, both in terms of next time and overall in the series,” Perelini told Sport360.
“We’ve reviewed and we’ll look towards the next tournament in China. We’ve just to keep learning and working hard.
“We also have some good players who didn’t travel to Korea so we might be adding a couple of players to the squad and get some others back ahead of final tournament in Sri Lanka.”
Perelini bemoaned the challenging environment his side have encountered in working towards their return to the elite level of Asian sevens rugby – they have not featured in the top tier Asia Sevens Series in four years.
Since 2015 they’ve been playing in the Development Sevens Series and the Asia Rugby Sevens Trophy, winning the latter last year to return to the elite level.
“The biggest issue was fitness, it always is,” added the New Zealander.
“There has been a lack of preparation and time together because the guys are working and we’ve been training during July and August when players are travelling. A lot of them travel overseas over the summer so getting them back into shape is always the hardest thing.
“Dubai’s weather isn’t exactly conducive to training either. It’s challenging but overall the weekend was very encouraging.
“We were a bit disappointed we lost a couple of the games, particularly against Sri Lanka and the Philippines. We felt we were the better team. But the players are realising the type of level that they are expected to be at, at an Asia tournament. We’ll come back and reflect on our performances.”
Naisau was the sole UAE try-scorer in defeat to Japan with he and Jebel Ali Dragons flyer Niko Volavola crossing in the China loss. Those two were joined on the scoresheet by Jeremaia Kilicanasau in the narrow loss to Sri Lanka while both also scored yet again in the Philippines loss, with Tobias Oakeley the UAE’s other scorer.
Naisau scored his fifth and sixth tries in victory over Chinese Taipei, while Kini Natuna also charged over for a brace with a fifth scored by Volavola.
Japan 29 UAE 7
China 24 UAE 14
Sri Lanka 21 UAE 17
Philippines 21 UAE 19
UAE 31 Chinese Taipei 5
He will be 37 in December yet UAE national team coach Apollo Perelini clearly sees value in Matt Richards after selecting him in his UAE sevens squad that returns to the Asia Rugby Sevens Series this weekend.
The UAE have been roaming the international wilderness of sevens rugby in recent years. They have not played in the main series since 2015. In the ensuing years they’ve foraged in the Development Sevens Series and the Asia Rugby Sevens Trophy. They lifted the Trophy in 2018 to earn promotion back to the main series for 2019.
Perelini’s men are the eighth and bottom seed across three legs of the series, and they face a difficult task with top seeds Japan in Pool A with them at their opening appointment in Incheon, South Korea, this weekend.
The UAE also face fourth seeds Sri Lanka and fifth seeds China at the Namdong Asiad Stadium, with the tournament kicking off on Saturday and finishing on Sunday.
And Jebel Ali Dragons full-back Richards can’t wait to make his debut for his adopted nation in the shorter format of the game.
“I’m proud to be selected in the 12, especially as the depth of our squad is good (the training squad this summer as a whole is made up of around 20 players),” said Richards, who has previously played for the UAE XVs side.
“I’m glad that Apollo thinks I can transfer my skill set from the 15 format into the sevens. It’s not bad for someone who is 37 before Christmas being selected.
“I’m really looking forward to the challenge of playing sevens at the highest level. It might not be the highest competition, but you can’t get higher than this division.”
The UAE earned promotion to the main series for 2019 after a dominant performance in last year’s Trophy, beating hosts Singapore 14-0 in the final.
They’d earlier easily swatted aside their group rivals, including commanding wins over Indonesia (48-0), Jordan (45-5) and Nepal (36-5), scoring 129 points and conceding just 10. They beat Thailand 26-0 in the semis before overcoming the hosts at Queenstown Stadium.
With Japan up first on day one, Richards and Co are under no illusion just how tough the job is in front of them. But he insists the UAE simply want to go there and compete.
“This weekend expectations are based more around our performances rather than results,” added the Englishman.
“We want to be able to compete for the entire 14 minutes, staying in our attacking and defensive shapes – this will give us confidence going into leg two and three of the series – and results are usually more favourable with strong performances.
“We are under no illusions that this is going to be a tough leg of a very tough tournament, first up against Japan on day one, but Apollo is adapting our game plan to suit our strengths.
“Apollo just wants us to enjoy the experience, give a good account of ourselves personally and as a team, and build into the series as a whole rather than just focus on one weekend.”
The three-leg series will move on to China and Huizhou from September 14-15 and conclude in Colombo, Sri Lanka, from September 28-29.
Training has been arduous in the scorching UAE summer, but it is also something that puts the UAE at an advantage, according to Richards.
He added: “Training has been hot, especially when we’ve been having two field sessions sandwiching the gym sessions, although the boys have been conditioning for a while now so our fitness helps with combatting the heat.”
Hong Kong, the Philippines, South Korea and Chinese Taipei make up Pool B in the opening leg of the series.