x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Harlequins tournament is a hit

The competition has grown over the last four years and 1,700 young players will take part.

What a wonderful outing it has been for those youngsters who gathered at the Al Ghazal Golf Club last year, the year before and in the inaugural Abu Dhabi mini and youth rugby tournament, as it was known at that time. The success of the event in its first year elevated it as the Abu Dhabi Duty Free mini and youth tournament for two years.

And now in its fourth year, it has got bigger and better, and under a more permanent title - the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Harlequins junior rugby tournament. Yes, the two day festival for junior and youth players have come to stay. And this Friday and Saturday we will see more than 1,700 children, both girls and boys, all joining the excitement of the sport. The tournament is the final episode of the Etihad junior rugby festival which kicked off with the Etihad Harlequins rugby school from Nov 5 to 8, the first of its kind headed by Dean Richards, the former England and Lions No 8 and the Harlequins director of rugby.

It was an event that gave more than 200 Emirati children and an equal number of international youngsters their first feel of a rugby ball and the chance to learn about the finer points of the sport. Then there are those who have worked tirelessly to bring this event to what it is now. The chairman of the Abu Dhabi Harlequins Richard Harris, Guy Fulbrook, now the manager of the junior section, and Robert Price, who is undergoing treatment for cancer in the UK, for whom we wish a fast recovery.

In Harris' owned words: "There has been an overwhelming response to this year's event which goes to show that the great game of rugby union is thriving in the Gulf. This is a great credit to the administrators, coaches, helpers and parents of the players and long may it continue. "With the size of the event we have had to restrict the number of teams entering. We have tried to maximize the space and time we have over the week end and we thank you for your understanding. For the first time we have a girls only competition in the form of under 16s touch rugby. A warm welcome to our overseas friends and we hope you all have an enjoyable time."

While the junior rugby takes the spotlight of the weekend, Mike Edgar, the director of Student Enrichment at the British School Al Khubairat has begun the Abu Dhabi Primary Schools Football Leagues. The competition for girls and boys under 9 and under 11 already kicked off last week and will conclude end of May. Al Yasmina made a bright start with a win and draw with Al Raha International and the British School Al Khubairat in the girls under 11. Al Raha International won their second match 2-0 with GEMS American Academy. In the under 9 boys, Pearl Primary and the International School of Choueifat won the opening games and in the under 11's Choueifat and Al Raha International had a win each and Al Khubairat were held to a scoreless result by Pearl Primary.

apassela@thenational.ae