x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Rugby match will honour victims of natural disasters

All-star rugby squad will face Dubai-based TOA to raise awareness of Christchurch and Japan disasters.

:Rugby fans will get to watch some of Europe’s best players such as the Welsh record try-scorer Shane Williams in the charity match.
:Rugby fans will get to watch some of Europe’s best players such as the Welsh record try-scorer Shane Williams in the charity match.

DUBAI //Some of Europe's best rugby union players will battle it out against Dubai-based TOA on Thursday in a bid to raise awareness of recent natural disasters.

Ospreys, the Magners champions, will field an all-star squad in the game that will pay tribute to the residents of Christchurch and Japan who were affected by the tragic earthquakes.

Scott Johnson, the director of coaching at Ospreys, said it was great opportunity to play in the region and support a cause.

Entry to the game is free and there will be raffles and prize giveaways. Kick-off is at 7pm.

"We have a lot of Kiwi boys either playing or on the staff who were touched by the disasters and a few of us spend a lot of time in Japan," Johnson said.

Rugby fans will get to watch British Lion's stars including the Welsh record try-scorer Shane Williams and Ireland winger Tommy Bowe. Also in the squad will be the Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones and Ryan Jones, both of whom toured with the British Lions.

TOA will have international guests including former All Blacks Marty Holah and Jerry Collins, Samoa captain Semo Sititi, and Japan winger Koji Tomioka.

Organisers expect fans from both hemispheres at the Dubai Sevens ground. Johnson said he knew there were a lot of Welsh expatriates as well as Antipodeans in the UAE, and said they would be in for an entertaining evening.

"We jumped at the first opportunity when we heard about it," said Alun Wyn Jones at a news conference at the Pullman hotel. "It was an opportunity to come out here and raise some awareness for what's still going on in Japan. We also saw it as a way to develop some players."

The 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit New Zealand's second city on February 22, killing 180 people and bringing down buildings.

On April 7, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck off the Japanese coastline causing a tsunami with 37.9metre waves. More than 14,000 people were killed and more than 12,000 are still missing.

Bowe said he was in the middle of preparations for a Six Nations game when he heard news of the New Zealand quake.

"We've watched both crises unfold on TV in Christchurch and Japan. It's a great opportunity for us but at the same time, its great to help out in some way," Bowe said.

"I just remember, we had the television news locked on and it was unbelievable scenes. To get the chance to come to Dubai is something special, but we are here to play a match and entertain the people of Dubai for a good cause," he added.

eharnan@thenational.ae