Rugby union in the Arabian Peninsula
Rugby union in the Arabian Peninsula is a minor, but growing sport. The game is played in six out of seven countries on the peninsula, specifically the Gulf Cooperation states of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. The region hosts the annual Dubai Sevens and Dubai Women's Sevens tournaments which are global events on the World Rugby sevens series for men and women.
Prior to the end of 2010, rugby in all six countries was administered by a single governing body, originally named the Gulf Rugby Football Union (GRFU) when established in 1977. However World Rugby's governance restructuring project for the West Asia region resulted in separate unions for each member country from 2010 onwards. The unified representative team for the six Gulf states played its final Test match in May 2010, before the split.
Rugby was first brought to the region by the British military around the mid-20th century. In addition, some Arabian royals and nobles have been sending their sons to English private schools for years, where they have picked up the game.
The sport was promoted by Commonwealth expatriates working in the oil industry. The Emirs, greatly interested by the phenomenon, provided grounds and financial support. The Dubai Sevens was founded in 1970, and has developed into one of the premier rugby sevens tournaments in the world. The Dubai Sevens has also encouraged the setting up of a number of Arab teams.
The Bahrain Rugby Football Union, Doha Rugby Football Centre (Qatar) and Kuwait Rugby Football Union were all under the unified Gulf Rugby umbrella, but become independent bodies along with the United Arab Emirates Rugby Federation following the restructure in 2010.
- Arabian Gulf rugby union team - the former unified representative team
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