Wasps to play Harlequins in Abu Dhabi

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Wasps and Harlequins have confirmed they will break new ground by staging their forthcoming LV= Cup fixture in Abu Dhabi.

The London rivals will be the first English clubs to stage a competitive match outside of the country.

The match, nominally a home fixture for Wasps, will be played under floodlights in a specially constructed 5,000 capacity stadium at the Emirates Palace hotel.

Wasps board director Lawrence Dallaglio said: "To be the first club to take a competitive game of rugby overseas really reflects Wasps desire to be innovative and try new things.

"We want to ensure that Wasps has a long term future and it is steps like this that strengthen the club and develop a global brand.

"We know that there will be some disappointment for those fans that cannot travel, but we know our supporters want long term success and stability and one-off opportunities like these can only help build our profile, appeal and reach."

The match will be broadcast live on Sky Sports and Wasps are hoping to appease season-ticket holders who now cannot attend the game by staging an open day with players later in the year.

Wasps owener Steve Hayes and Dallaglio came up with the idea after visiting the region last year as part of their research into stadium development.

Wasps and Harlequins have both already enjoyed success in engaging new supporters by attracting big crowds to club matches at Twickenham.

Harlequins' Big Game 3 against London Irish on December 27 drew a crowd of 74,212 and both clubs are keen to build on that with this landmark initiative

A club statement added: "Eager to push the boundaries, Wasps, in partnership with Harlequins and the LV= Cup tournament, take the first steps to promote rugby to a new overseas market by playing a competitive game abroad."

Rugby is not the first sport to embrace the concept of engaging new markets by staging fixtures abroad.

The NFL have staged regular-season games at Wembley Stadium for the last three years and the NBA are to follow suite, with games arranged for London in March.

But there was a negative reaction when the Barclays Premier League proposed plans to play an additional round of league fixtures in different cities around the world.

Both sides will be without their current England stars with the Six Nations beginning the following weekend.

Harlequins won their first two LV= Cup fixtures, against Leicester and Newcastle, and currently top Pool Four of the Anglo-Welsh competition.

Wasps opened their campaign with a defeat to Exeter but bounced back with an 18-16 victory over Bath.