Dubai: The best of UAE rugby will take to the field at Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi on Friday and at Dubai Sports City on April 18 to mark the launch of the Bill McLaren Foundation’s Challenge Cup in the Arab world.
The challenge matches, which kick off at 5pm in Abu Dhabi and 6pm in Dubai, are at the heart of a three-tiered sporting series that champions the sporting ethos personified by Bill McLaren, the world-renowned ‘voice of rugby’.
McLaren, a promising rugby player and coach before turning commentator, ruled the BBC’s radio and television rugby broadcasts for nearly 50 years — and he eventually became the first non-international to be inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame. His contributions to the sporting world also earned him MBE, OBE and CBE honours from the British government.
The Bill McLaren Foundation, set up with the support of his family, promotes the development of the sport and his gentlemanly values and champions sporting opportunities for youth around the world. His grandsons Rory Lawson and Jim Thompson, noted players in their own right, support the foundation around the world, including the UAE.
Lawson, foundation ambassador and Dubai team selector, said: “We hope these events will raise funds to give kids throughout the Middle East and Asia opportunities to grow through rugby that may not otherwise exist. Increasing player numbers is a target but not as important as embedding the innate values of rugby union into grassroots rugby and into life.”
The McLaren Foundation sports events in the UAE will also include a corporate golf shambles challenge and fun day on April 16 at Emirates Golf Club, fundraising events headlined by South African rugby captain John Smit on April 16 and 17, and an under-14 Abu Dhabi Schools Select v Dubai Schools Select vying for the Xodus Challenge Trophy in Dubai on April 17.
Entrance to the rugby matches is free. The Bill McLaren Foundation events in the UAE are sponsored by Xodus, GMS, Anantara Dubai Resort & Spa and MMI.
Janco Fourie (Exiles), Sean Crombie, Sandy Burley (Dragons), Conor Coakley (Hurricanes), Scott Hutton (Exiles), Adam Telford, Niall Statham (Dragons), Jason White, Kris Greene (Dragons), Andy Powell, Oli Johnson (Hurricanes), Murray Strang (Dragons), Mike Lancaster (Wasps), Sean Carey (Hurricanes), Imad Reyal (Dragons), Chris Gregory (Hurricanes), Al Golding (Dragons), Liam Andrews (Exiles), Sean O’Hiairnan (Wasps), Paul Hart (Dragons), Josh Ives, Danny Rapallo (Wasps), Andy Longley (Hurricanes), Charlie Sargent (Exiles), Gareth Bacon (Exiles), Ian Sinclair (Dragons).
Abu Dhabi squad:
Chris Jones Griffiths (Harlequins), Jason De Boize (Saracens), Christy McCormick, Phil Abraham (Harlequins), Alex Gonzalez (Saracens), Phil Brady, Eddie Talbot, Clendon Pene, Billy Graham (Harlequins), Ali Thomson, Ian Huges, Dyan Gage (Saracens), Ben Bolger, Ed Lewsey, Patrick Hegarty, Luke Stephenson, Jeremy Manning (Harlequins), Douglas Steele (Saracens), Iziq Foa’I (Harlequins), Josh Dransfield, John Coutts (Saracens), Chris Marshall, Matt Hutchins, Rob Buaserau.