The third edition of the Etihad Airways Junior Rugby Festival is set to take place at its new venue Zayed Sports City, Abu Dhabi, later this month with more than 2,200 school children aged between 5 and 18 years taking part.
The festival, the largest youth rugby event of its kind in the region, takes place between October 19 and 30, and consists of two key events – the Etihad Harlequins Rugby Schools and the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Harlequins Junior Rugby Tournament.
This year's hosting venue, Zayed Sports City, has additional capacity to accommodate the growing number of participants witnessed year-on-year since the festival was inaugurated.
Through its sponsorship of London-based rugby club, Harlequins, Etihad Airways has secured the participation of ex-Irish International and Harlequins Director of Rugby, Conor O'Shea, who will be able to scout the local youth rugby talent. Also in attendance will be Harlequins' Second Row forward, James Percival, and members from the Harlequins Community Rugby Coaches.
Peter Baumgartner, Etihad Airways' Chief Commercial Officer, said: "Etihad Airways is proud to deliver its third Junior Rugby Festival."
"This year is set to become the biggest festival yet with children participating from more than nine countries, including Russia, Kenya, UK and various countries from the GCC. With support from our global sporting partners we remain committed to bring sports excitement to Abu Dhabi and the region and make a contribution to the development of local grassroots sport."
Declan Hegarty, Abu Dhabi Managing Director and Head of Business, HSBC Bank Middle East Limited., added: "HSBC is proud to be the presenting partner of the Etihad Rugby Festival 2010, one of the biggest international junior rugby competitions in the Middle East. This is testament to our support of rugby from grassroots through to elite level on a global platform, and particularly our commitment to developing youngsters across the region and teaching them the positive values that the game can bring. We are delighted to be able to introduce a 'Sportsmanship' award, which will be awarded to a child in each age group at the end of the festival. This is a great incentive for all of the 1,800 participants across all of the age groups involved, and we look forward to a hugely successful event."
The inaugural Etihad Airways Junior Rugby Festival took place in 2008 and attracted more than 1,600 youngsters, both local and international, who took part in the rugby clinics and two-day junior tournament.
Mohammed Al Mahmood, Abu Dhabi Sports Council's General Secretary, said: "The Junior Rugby Festival is a fantastic sporting initiative for the emirate of Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi Sports Council wishes to express its support, and thanks Etihad Airways, Harlequins and all the event partners for leading the way with the Middle East's youth rugby programme."
Conor O'Shea, Harlequins Director of Rugby, added: "Harlequins are honoured to continue supporting Etihad in their efforts to develop rugby within the UAE. The Harlequins club staff and players are really excited about attending the Festival later this month and it is a great chance for us to see the local talent first hand."
Children taking up rugby within the emirate of Abu Dhabi and also to scout for young players with the potential to play at the highest level."
Following the Rugby Schools, Etihad Airways will jointly host with the Abu Dhabi Harlequins Rugby Club the region's largest junior rugby tournament at the same location on October 29 and 30. More than 1,800 children will take part in the two day knockout tournament.
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