What do Ulster Rugby and Dubai have in common? And no it’s not Rory McIlroy.
For a start, players born in Ulster feature in a number of teams competing in the local and regional rugby championships.
One club in particular stands out as a magnet for Northern Irish diaspora in the Middle East – the Dubai Exiles.
‘The Exiles’ are the oldest club in the region and traditionally were very successful.
However in recent years they had fallen on hard times. At one point they struggled to find enough players to field a team. Not so now.
This season, the club enjoyed a major revival thanks in no small part to their Northern Irish contingent.
The side is captained by former Ireland ‘club’ international, Glenn Moore and coached by his old Malone RFC coach, Jacques Benade. It also includes around 4–5 other senior players from Northern Ireland.
This group was central to The Exiles enjoying their most successful season in a long time – they won the UAE Premiership and West Asia Championship.
Another equally remarkable story is that during the course of the season a 6ft 2, 18–year–old winger born in Dubai has attracted the attention of one of Europe’s leading professional sides, Ulster Rugby.
Schoolboy Tom Stapley was spotted by Exiles coach, Benade while playing for Jumeirah College. Shortly after Stapley was thrown into the deep waters of senior rugby.
He did so well that Benade recommended him to Ulster, who decided to offer him a week long trial earlier this year.
The coaches there liked what they saw and have invited Stapley back to train with them for two months from July.
Well done to the Dubai Exiles and good luck to Tom Stapley.
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