UAE rugby fans are in for a month-long feast with the announcement of the second Emirates Airline Cup of Nations XV’s tournament which will be played on December 8, 11 and 14.
Participating in this year’s tournament are Zimbabwe, Belgium, hosts UAE and reigning champions Hong Kong.
Competition is expected to be fierce with the three visiting countries so closely ranked (Belgium 23rd, Hong Kong 28th and Zimbabwe 29th) and while the bar may be set high, hosts UAE will be looking at this XV’s tournament to lift their playing standards to a more competitive level.
“We have high hopes for the Emirates Airline Cup of Nations and we are particularly pleased that this year Zimbabwe returns as a new addition to the Emirates’ network, having started flights to Harare in February,” said Gary Chapman, President Group Services & dnata, Emirates Group.
“Emirates is well known for connecting with sports fans and this is a good example of a tournament with great potential. We also realise the value of sports at grassroots level and its role as an economic catalyst.”
“UAE Rugby Federation is delighted to have the ongoing support and commitment of Emirates Airline and the International Rugby Board,” said UAE Rugby Chairman Mohammed Falaknaz. “Through their foresight and commitment to our goals we are delighted to announce the Emirates Airline Cup of Nations for a second year.”
“As well as welcoming back reigning premiers Hong Kong, we are exceptionally proud to welcome two new countries (in Belgium and Zimbabwe) to the tournament, and we are looking forward to seeing some intense, quality test rugby,” he added.
IRB Head of Performance and Development Mark Egan said: “It is great for rugby in the UAE that the Emirates Airline Cup of Nations is going ahead again this year."
He said it bodes well for the development of the sport in West Asia.
"It is encouraging to see that the UAE national team is maintaining a competitive programme of fixtures. It is also a wonderful opportunity for players from the other Unions – Zimbabwe, Hong Kong and Belgium – to showcase their talents and play against teams from other parts of the world. The IRB is pleased to be involved and supporting this initiative. It’s important that cross-regional tournaments such as this take place.”