DUBAI // UAE Rugby League will host its first official international fixture when Lebanon and South Africa vie for World Cup qualification at Dubai Sports City in October.
The governing body for the sport in the UAE on Friday announced ambitious plans to submit a bid to stage the 2021 World Cup.
The UAERF had also hoped to enter a side in a three-team, Middle East and Africa (MEA) qualifying competition for the right to take the eight berth at the 2017 tournament in Australia and New Zealand.
However, given the embryonic status of the 13-man sport in this country, the UAE side was overlooked, and a straight play-off between Lebanon and South Africa will take place instead.
The fixture will be played at the end of October, at the rugby centre at Sports City, which staged the opening round of the UAE Nissan Rugby League Cup at the weekend.
“Dubai Sports City is delighted to welcome rugby league to Dubai,” Maqbul Dudhia, Sports City’s general manager of sports business, was quoted as saying on the Rugby League International Federation website.
“It is an exciting global sport and will sit well alongside the other major sports that are already played across our venues.”
Remond Safi, the European Federation’s MEA director, believes Dubai is an ideal venue for the fixture.
“It’s great that the first ever Middle East Africa World Cup berth will be decided in one of the region’s most established event hubs,” said Safi, who attended Friday’s league fixtures at Sports City.
“There are a lot of opportunities for rugby league in the UAE and the region and I am sure that this will be the first step in a long and fruitful relationship.”
Follow our sports coverage on Twitter @NatSportUAE