Small Blacks announce second season plans aimed at growing UAE youth rugby

Open days, age group competitions, clinics from professionals, and a junior tag tournament all part of the schedule for the 2022/23 season

Small Blacks Abu Dhabi will begin the new season with open days on August 31 and September 1. Photo: Abu Dhabi Cricket & Sports Hub
Powered by automated translation

Small Blacks Abu Dhabi (SBAD) – the UAE capital’s Official Youth Rugby Programme licensed by New Zealand Rugby – has announced plans for its second year, which begins September 4.

The 2023-2024 calendar will include free introductory open days on August 31 and September 1, five SBAD skills camps throughout the year, and demonstration and training days with the 2022-23 World Series Champions All Blacks Sevens squad and Black Ferns Women’s Sevens squad.

There will also be the junior tag tournament, which will include teams from eight affiliated clubs and an expected attendance of 300 children per week to compete in Under-6, U7 and U8 age groups across 10 weekends, giving the younger age groups more opportunities for participation.

The U9-U14 age groups will continue to feature in the UAE Rugby Federation tournaments, and friendly matches from October 2023 to March 2024. The number of inter-club games will be raised to over 30 for the 2023-24 campaign to give even more youngsters the opportunity to play rugby in the UAE.

The weekly girls’ sessions continue for girls aged 14 and under, while mixed sessions will run at all age groups from U4 to U14 to provide equal opportunities for everyone at the club.

"Further to Abu Dhabi Sports Council's vision, the target for our rugby program is to promote participation and fun, while providing as many accessible playing opportunities to young kids," said John Larkins, Director of Sport at Abu Dhabi Cricket & Sports Hub.

“After a successful first year that produced 21 junior teams across the club, year two will focus on growing our rugby communities across children of all gender, experience level, shape or size.”

SBAD made history in 2022 as New Zealand Rugby's (NZR) only officially licensed rugby programme outside of New Zealand and has quickly established itself as the UAE's fastest growing rugby club.

More than 300 boys and girls flocked to SBAD in its inaugural year, with age groups running from U4-U14. They play under 23 qualified coaches with a minimum of World Rugby Level 1 coaching certification, with the team headed up by Aaron Persico, who represented Italy 56 times and played at the 2003 Rugby World Cup.

“This inclusive approach has enabled the SBAD programme to grow by placing greater emphasis on participation, enjoyment, and community building,” Persico said.

For more information, visit

Updated: June 30, 2023, 11:57 AM