Rugby union in Saudi Arabia
|Rugby union in Saudi Arabia|
|National team||Saudi Arabia|
|First played||Mid 20th Century|
Rugby is a developing sport in the Kingdom and is currently under the guidance of the General Presidency of Youth Welfare (GPYW). It is not affiliated to the International Rugby Board (IRB), nor to the Asian Rugby Football Union.
Due to the climate, Saudi rugby has been frequently played in extreme temperatures, with high temperatures or even on sand. Games are usually held in the evening for this reason.
Rugby union was introduced into Saudi Arabia by the British in the mid twentieth century. In more recent times, an influx of oil workers in the past three or four decades has meant that the sport has experienced a form of revival. In 1976, a rugby club was set in Al Khobar.
In 1978, Jeddah RFC was set up and according to their own website:
- "They played and practiced on a rough sand pitch, with bits of coral often found [sic], by the old airport."
However, while British Commonwealth expatriates have tended to dominate rugby in the Kingdom for the past thirty years, in more recent times, the indigenous Saudi Arabian population has begun taking the sport up.
Infrastructure remains weak, but there are moves to try and develop it, and for the sport to be introduced into local schools and universities.
There are currently several rugby clubs in Saudi Arabia:
- Riyadh RFC
- Jeddah RFC
- Jeddah RFC (A Team)
- Jeddah RFC (B Team)
- Jeddah RFC Juniors (15- to 17-year-olds)
- Al Khobar Quins RFC, formed from the merger of Khamis Quins RFC and Khobar Eagles RFC.
- Al Khobar Quins (Adult team)
- Al Khobar Quins (Junior team)
- Riyadh Warriors RFC
- Riyadh Warriors (Adult team)
- Riyadh Warriors (Junior team)
- Tiaf Tigers RFC
- Yanbu RC Legends
Since the IRB only requires three clubs for affiliation, it is possible that Saudi Arabia will become an ARFU Country in the near future.
At the Dubai 7s 2012 Jeddah RFC narrowly lost the Gulf Men's Open Plate and in the same competition in 2010, Riyadh Falcons won the Plate - beating Riyadh Warriors RFC 17-0 in the quarter finals on the way to defeating Fujairah RFC 29-0 in the Plate final. Also in 2012 the Riyadh Falcons won the Beruit 10's competition.
After a season that included a Jeddah 7s Tournament and Riyadh 7s tournament prior to the Dubai 7s competition. And the first ever KAUST 10s tournament. However, this is currently changing, with the Ministry of Sport wanting to increase the number of Saudi Nationals participating in the game. The previous established expat structure is being dismantled with an aim to further develop the game in Saudi Arabia (both increasing the number of players and spectators), this is however, a positive and a negative with some of the established Expat clubs having to disband after not being able to meet the requirements for affiliation with the Saudi Arabian Rugby Committee.
In November 2012 A national team, consisting only of Saudi Nationals entered the West Asia 7s competition in Dubai. They finished 3rd overall with Lebanon taking the title.
Only time will tell how Saudi Rugby moves forward and if it can replicate the system in place within the UAE.