Karachi: Etihad Airways’ fourth annual Junior Rugby Festival is set to take place at Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi on October 17 through to October 29, with a record 2,200 school children aged between 5 and 18 years planned to participate.
The festival, which is the largest youth rugby event of its kind in the region, consists of two key events – the Etihad Airways Harlequins Rugby Schools and the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Harlequins Junior Rugby Tournament.
Through its sponsorship of London-based rugby club, Harlequins, Etihad has again secured the participation of ex-Irish International and Harlequins Director of Rugby, Conor O’Shea, who will scout local youth rugby talent during the events. Also in attendance will be Harlequins’ first team player, Ollie Smith, and members from the Harlequins Community Rugby Coaches.
This year will see Harlequins’ mascots, Harley and Charley; join the players and coaches for the very first time at the rugby schools before embarking on a tour of Abu Dhabi to visit a selection of schools and major landmarks.
Peter Baumgartner, Etihad Airways’ Chief Commercial Officer, said: “Etihad Airways is proud to deliver its fourth Junior Rugby Festival. Building on the success of last year’s festival, this year we are set to see children participating from more than nine countries, including Russia, UK and several countries from the GCC.
“We very much appreciate the close partnership with the Abu Dhabi Sports Council and with support from our global sporting partners, we remain committed to bringing sports excitement to Abu Dhabi and the region and contributing to the development of local grassroots sport.”
Marcus Hurry, Deputy CEO, HSBC Bank Middle East Limited, added: “HSBC is proud to be the presenting partner of one of the biggest junior rugby competitions in the region. At this year’s Etihad Airways Junior Rugby Festival, HSBC Ambassador, Jason Robinson will lead a number of coaching clinics for kids.”
”The UAE is fast developing into a regional and international hub for rugby and we hope to help continue to grow the game here with our support for the game at all levels through our growing portfolio of rugby partnerships.”
As the Supporting Partner of the event, Abu Dhabi Sports Council is assisting with the organisation of schools to attend the event and with an outreach day to the Western Region.
Mohammed Al Mahmood, Abu Dhabi Sports Council’s General Secretary, said: “The Etihad Airways Junior Rugby Festival is a fantastic sporting initiative for the emirate of Abu Dhabi. The outreach day in the Western Region will enable local children to experience rugby for the first time.
“Abu Dhabi Sports Council wishes to express its support, and thanks Etihad Airways, Harlequins and all the event partners for leading the way with the Middle East’s youth rugby programme.”
Conor O’Shea, Harlequins Director of Rugby, added: “Harlequins are honoured to continue supporting Etihad in their efforts to develop rugby within the UAE. With Rugby World Cup fever gripping the nation, the Harlequins club staff and players are excited about attending the Festival later this month and it is a great chance for us to see the local talent first hand.”
The inaugural Etihad Airways Junior Rugby Festival took place in 2008 and attracted more than 1,600 youngsters, both local and international, who took part in the rugby clinics and two-day junior tournament.
Following the Rugby Schools, Etihad Airways will jointly host with the Abu Dhabi Harlequins Rugby Club the region’s largest junior rugby tournament on October 28 and 29, also at Zayed Sports City. More than 1,800 children, a record for the yearly event, will take part in the two day knockout tournament.
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