Get ready for a September of big hits, crunching tackles and end-to-end sporting excitement – the Rugby World Cup is back, and this year’s tournament promises to be more action-packed than ever. Rugby’s rapidly increasing global popularity is partly due to the emergence of teams from nations such as Argentina, Italy, Tonga and the USA, which further the sport’s reputation as a global game. Most importantly, however, rugby is a wonderful spectator sport.
This year’s World Cup is taking place in New Zealand, so the viewing times aren’t the most convenient (most games kick off in the morning and early afternoon, UAE time). But we all know Dubai welcomes any excuse for a party. We’ve chosen the matches from the group stages that are set to be absolute crackers, as well as the venue where we think you’ll find the most amazing atmosphere. From early-morning rugby breakfasts to mischievous drinks deals and live entertainment, many venues have made special efforts to accommodate fans of different nationalities. Whether you’re looking for the camaraderie of like-minded fans or the chance to heckle the opposition, there’s a place for everyone and every game.
New Zealand v Tonga at Nezesaussi
Friday September 9, 12.30pm
Why watch it here? A favourite with Kiwi expats, this sports bar will no doubt be heaving with supporters of this year’s World Cup hosts as they go head to head with their Pacific neighbours. Both have a distinct war dance (the Kiwis have the Haka; the Fijians the Cibi), so it’s worth watching for the face-off at the beginning of the match alone.
Drinks deals: Get five bottled hop beverages for Dhs125, plus there’s a special lunch menu.
Opening times vary depending on match times. Al Manzil Hotel, Downtown Dubai (04 428 5888).
Argentina v England at Barasti
Saturday September 10, 12.30pm
Why watch it here? Argentina’s rugby team aren’t the force they used to be, but they will doubtless raise their game for England in an attempt to finish top of the pool. Once again, this popular beach bar is rolling out the giant poolside screen, as well as eight new TVs to show the matches, and it doesn’t take much to get these two nationalities worked up. Note that alcohol will only be served after noon.
Drinks deals: Enjoy a bucket of five selected beverages for Dhs140.
Opening times vary depending on match times. Le Méridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Spa, Dubai Marina (04 399 3333).
South Africa v Wales at The Huddle
Sunday September 11, 12.30pm
Why watch it here? Catch the game on one of seven TVs or one giant screen at this sports bar, which throws open its arms to all nationalities and will be running a ‘predict and win’ promotion: predict the score before the match to win either a pitcher, tower or bucket of hops.
Drinks deals: Bucket deals for Dhs99 during matches; pints of ‘hop of the month’ are Dhs23; sports platters Dhs65 including a pint.
Opening times vary depending on match times. Citymax Al Barsha (04 409 800); Citymax Bur Dubai (04 407 8000).
Russia v USA at Emirates Golf Club
Thursday September 15, 11.30am
Why watch it here? This long-established golf club offers more than 15 screens on which to watch these two emerging rugby nations face off. Neither side has a hope of reaching the next round, so this is, in effect, their final. A breakfast buffet is available for Dhs58.
Drinks deals: Packages start from Dhs675 for a reserved table of 10, including 24 bottles of hops and two Rugby Central platters, or Dhs725 for a table of 10 with 20 drinks vouchers (valid for hops, grape, short drinks and soft drinks) and two platters.
Opening times depend on match times. Emirates Hills (04 380 2222).
Australia v Ireland at Aussie Legends
Saturday September 17, 12.30pm
Why watch it here? This lively Aussie sports bar will be open every Friday and Saturday for games, with a breakfast menu served until 3pm. For Irish fans, we recommend The Irish Village (04 282 4750).
Drinks deals: Selected pints are Dhs25 and buckets of bottles are Dhs120, while selected drinks are Dhs10 for ladies every night. There’s also bottle basketball – buy bottled hops and throw the bottle top in the bucket above the bar to win your drink for free.
Opening times vary – doors open 30 minutes before the first match of each day. Rydges Plaza Hotel, Satwa (04 398 2222).
New Zealand v France at Can Can Brasserie Terrace
Saturday September 24, 12.30pm
Why watch it here? Open 24 hours a day during the World Cup, this venue will be showing matches on one giant projector screen and two large LCDs. Each guest will receive a branded hops welcome package, and there will be a breakfast buffet (including pork options) available every day from 5.30am-10.30am for Dhs165, and à la carte from 10.30am onwards.
Drinks deals: Get a bucket of six bottles for Dhs180, or a bucket of 12 bottles for Dhs300.
Open daily 24 hours. The Ritz-Carlton DIFC, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 372 2323).
England v Scotland at McGettigan’s
Saturday October 1, 12.30pm
Why watch it here? Just as popular with the English and Scots as it is with the Irish, this pub is on a mission to show each and every World Cup game, and will be offering everything from porridge and omelettes to full Irish breakfasts for the early matches. Ireland jerseys will be available for those who fancy taunting both sides of this particular match.
Drinks deals: There are no rugby deals, but for Friday matches you can try the brunch: Dhs149 for a main course and three pints.
Opening times vary depending on match times. Bonnington Hotel, JLT (04 356 0560).
Check out the next page for more awesome ideas of where to watch the rugby World Cup in Dubai.
Five more top places to watch the rugby World Cup in Dubai.
Free entry. Clubhouse Al Manhal, (between Shoreline Buildings 3 & 4), Palm Jumeirah (04 427 0515).
Après: Games will be shown on five LCD TVs and one big screen projector. There will also be drinks and meal deals during the tournament and a chance to win VIP tickets to the Dubai Rugby.
Free entry. Après, Level 1, West End, Mall of the Emirates (04 431 2575).
Left Bank Souk Madinat Jumeirah: Two screens indoors and one big projector screen outside. There will be numerous drinks deals and a special menu running throughout the tournament.
Free. Waterfront Promenade, Souk Madinat Juemirah (04 368 6171).
Al Areesh Club: Matches will be screened on one large screen and four smaller TVs. There will be great drinks deals and a chance to win tickets to the Dubai Rugby Sevens.
Free entry. Al Badia Golf Club, Dubai Festival City (04 232 6146).
Rugby at The Gate with Colin Charvis: Watch rugby and eat brunch at Al Bahou, where rugby legend Colin Charvis will be offering live commentary with local sports commentator Tom Urquhart. Rugby legends Scott Gibbs, Jeremy Guscott, and Joost Van Der Westhauizen will be making special appearances at various times throughout the world cup.
A special sporty menu is available on Saturdays and Sundays for Dhs69 or Dhs99 (includes bucket of four hop-based beverages). Friday brunch costs Dhs495 (with bubbly) Al Bahou, Ibn Battuta Gate Hotel (04 444 5613).
World Cup 101
Player to watch
Since he converted from rugby league, All Black Sonny Bill Williams has forged a reputation as one of the most formidable centres in the rugby union. His agility, strength and fitness might have something to do with the fact he’s also a professional boxer. Just the kind of guy you want on your team.
Official 2011 Rugby World Cup song
The theme song for the Rugby World Cup marketing campaign (which organisers are hoping will catch on in the stands) is a cover of British band Jesus Jones’ ‘Right Here, Right Now’ by Kiwi band The Feelers.
Pre-tournament talking point
This year’s Rugby World Cup will be missing some key players as the result of the gruelling series of World Cup warm-up matches. England will be without scrum-half Danny Care, Wales have lost pretty boy Gavin Henson and captain Matthew Rees, while a question mark hangs over the fitness of All Blacks Kieran Read and Adam Thomson.
Will the hosts choke?
Everyone agrees that this World Cup is New Zealand’s to lose. The All Blacks are overwhelming favourites for the tournament, having recently played some of the best rugby of their illustrious history. However, the All Blacks were exposed as mere mortals by a young Australian side who dismantled them to win the Tri-Nations in August. Could New Zealand bottle, again?