Abu Dhabi becomes first international base for New Zealand Rugby's Small Blacks

Abu Dhabi Cricket and Sports Hub partners with NZR to become organisation's first officially licensed grassroots development programme outside New Zealand

New Zealand Rugby’s (NZR) famed Small Blacks brand is going global with the Abu Dhabi Cricket & Sports Hub. Photo: Dave Lintott / lintottphoto.co.nz
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New Zealand Rugby’s renowned Small Blacks brand is to set up base at Abu Dhabi Cricket and Sports Hub.

Small Blacks Abu Dhabi becomes NZR’s first officially licensed grassroots development programme outside of New Zealand, with girls and boys between three to 16 years now able to become Small Blacks Abu Dhabi members.

They kick off their programme with an open day on September 2 with training to begin three days later.

“This is an exciting partnership for New Zealand Rugby to broaden the reach of the Small Blacks brand and create new relationships for our development programmes,” NZR commercial CEO Richard Thomas said.

“We have been impressed by the care and passion Abu Dhabi Cricket and Sports Hub has shown for growing rugby in the UAE and we believe Small Blacks can help grow the game in emerging markets and foster some lasting relationships.”

Small Blacks Abu Dhabi builds on a partnership which has seen the Black Ferns and All Blacks sevens teams using the Hub’s training facilities in the lead-up to major international competitions since 2017.

During that time New Zealand players and coaches have conducted community coaching sessions with players from all over the UAE.

“We couldn’t be prouder that New Zealand Rugby has entrusted us with the Small Blacks’ first international out-post and look forward to building on our existing relationship to establish a longer-term partnership between us,” Matt Boucher, CEO of Abu Dhabi Cricket and Sports Hub, said.

“The All Blacks are the standard bearers for international rugby and one of the most recognisable brands in world sport.

“We share their inherent values of integrity, teamwork, and community enhancement. This historic partnership demonstrates the Hub’s deep commitment to providing exceptional sporting opportunities to our community and to ensuring Abu Dhabi’s name resonates with the world’s greatest sporting brands and aspiring talent.”

Through the Small Blacks, NZR has curated a participation-based community programme, with an overarching philosophy that the game must be safe and enjoyable for all.

Small Blacks Abu Dhabi will use this blueprint to engage and educate children across the region, allowing young players the opportunity to develop a wide range of skills as they progress through the age groups, with skill development and stringent safety measures a major focus for the coaches.

Once launched, Small Blacks Abu Dhabi will formally absorb Abu Dhabi Cricket and Sports Hub’s 10-month- old rugby product, with 245 boys and girls being led by 12 World Rugby-certified coaches under the direction of New Zealand-born Aaron Persico, who represented Italy 56 times and played at the 2003 Rugby World Cup.

Small Blacks Abu Dhabi will participate in regional tournaments and UAE Rugby Federation rugby fixtures.

Additional indoor and outdoor specialized skills camps will run throughout the season to keep rugby running all-year round.

Updated: August 25, 2022, 8:26 AM