Matt Mills - Dubai Exiles RFC

Victory And Vision: Matt Mills Spearheads UAE Rugby’s Ascent

Published On: 19 June 2024By

Matt Mills, the captain of the UAE national rugby team, has been a pivotal figure in the country’s rugby scene.

With 5 caps in the 15-a-side format and 9 appearances in the 7s format, Mills brings a wealth of experience and leadership to the squad. As the team celebrates a historic victory in the Asia Rugby Championship and prepares for future challenges, Mills shares his insights on the league’s growth, the team’s journey, and his personal motivations.

‘The quality of play is increasing’

The UAE domestic rugby league has undergone significant transformation over the past few years. “The league has stepped up, especially in the last couple of years,” says Mills. “Player retention has improved, and the quality of play is increasing as the league slowly turns semi-professional.”

This evolution is evident in the performance of teams like the Dubai Exiles, where Mills has played for nine seasons. The league’s progress is marked by the commitment of players who choose to stay and grow with their teams, creating a more competitive and consistent environment.

The increased professionalism within the league has attracted better talent and more investment. Clubs like the Bahrain Rugby Football Club and the Dubai Tigers have implemented initiatives to support their players, whether through job placements or semi-professional contracts. These steps are pivotal in ensuring the sustainability and growth of rugby in the region.

Matt Mills - Family

‘Seeing my family’s support and pride motivates me immensely’

‘I love the game and live and breathe rugby’

Rugby has been a lifelong passion for Matt Mills, who started playing the sport in school and the club systems in the UK. Now at 35, his motivation to keep playing is driven by his love for the game and the support of his family. “I love the game and live and breathe rugby. Seeing my family’s support and pride motivates me immensely,” he shares.

For Mills, playing rugby is not just about personal achievement but also about setting an example for his young children. “I want my children to remember me playing. Seeing their support during matches fills me with immense happiness.”

Mills’ journey in rugby began at Northampton School for Boys, a school renowned for producing top-level rugby talent. He played for the Bedford Blues Academy and a local club in Bedford before moving to Dubai. His extensive experience has not only shaped him as a player but also as a mentor and leader for the UAE National Team.

Matt Mills - UAE Rugby

‘We secured a historic victory’

The UAE national team recently faced formidable opponents in the Asia Rugby Championship. Despite a tough loss to Hong Kong, they bounced back with a historic victory against South Korea. “We realised we could win if we played our game,” recalls Mills. “We focused on playing UAE rugby, maintaining physicality, and disrupting their game. It worked, and we secured a historic victory.”

This win was a testament to the team’s resilience and strategic preparation. It highlighted their ability to adapt and overcome challenges, setting the stage for their upcoming match against Malaysia. The victory against South Korea was particularly significant, as it demonstrated the team’s potential and determination to compete at higher levels.

‘Competing at this level highlighted the difference in fitness’

Competing at the Asia Rugby Championship level has highlighted the differences in fitness and training between the UAE and more established teams. “Competing at this level highlighted the difference in fitness and training between the UAE and more established teams like Hong Kong,” explains Mills. The team has been training twice a week for eight weeks leading up to the championship, balancing rigorous schedules with their professional and personal lives.

The challenges are not just physical but also logistical. Many players juggle full-time jobs and family commitments alongside their rugby careers. “A one and a half hour training session for some of our lads is a five-hour outing,” says Mills, emphasizing the dedication required to compete at this level.

‘We’re hoping for more support’

Looking ahead, the team aims to build on their recent successes and secure a spot in the World Cup qualifiers. “If we win against Malaysia, it will make a significant statement,” says Mills. “We’re hoping for more support from the UAE Rugby Federation and potentially a World Cup qualifier.”

A victory against Malaysia could significantly boost the UAE’s world rugby rankings and garner the necessary support for a more structured and sustained preparation for future tournaments. “We need a long-term player pathway that develops players, fitness levels, and the talent we already have,” explains Mills.

UAE National Rugby Team

‘It’s exciting to see the future of UAE rugby’

For young and aspiring rugby players in the UAE, Matt Mills offers sage advice: “Grab every opportunity with both hands. The level is rising, and competition is tough, but playing for the UAE, my adopted home, has been an incredible honor.”

Mills emphasises the importance of dedication and hard work, encouraging newcomers to take the game seriously and strive for excellence. “This is where my children are born, where I got married, and where I see my future. I’m now playing rugby for my home country.”

He also highlights the potential for young players to make a significant impact. “There’s a lot of talent coming through now, and it’s exciting to see the future of UAE rugby.”

uae national rugby team

As the UAE national rugby team prepares for their next match against Malaysia, the stakes are high. Their journey so far has been marked by determination, growth, and a desire to prove themselves on the world stage. Fans and supporters are encouraged to follow their progress, support the team, and join the celebration of their achievements.

Stay tuned to Yalla Rugby for updates and exclusive insights into the UAE rugby scene. Together, let’s cheer on our team as they strive for greatness.

About the author

Gamaliel Torres

I'm a passionate sports fanatic with a deep love for discovering and learning about different eras in sports history. Recently graduated from university, I'm excited to uncover stories and study the rich history of sports within our community in the Emirates and the broader Middle East.

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