Air Seychelles Mike Ballard Foundation Conquistadors name experienced team to travel to Madagascar for goodwill mission

Manager Mike Ballard and coaches Winston Cowie and Ed Lewsey are pleased to announce a very experienced rugby team to travel to Madagascar in July to play the Madagascan national side, the Makis, as part of a goodwill mission.

The Air Seychelles Mike Ballard Foundation Conquistadors and the Madagascan Makis, who are ranked No.41 in the world, will play an exhibition match at the Madagascan National Stadium on Sunday 3 July 2016, following a Junior 7s rugby curtain-raising tournament.

The mission includes donating wheelchairs to charities in the Seychelles and Madagascar, and also donating junior rugby clothing and boots and coaching junior rugby in Madagascar.

Team naming:

The Air Seychelles Mike Ballard Foundation Conquistadors team, to play Madagascar, includes:


Graham Murphy (UAE International, Abu Dhabi Harlequins).

Tom Nolan (Qatar International, Doha RFC).

Chris Jones Griffiths (UAE International, Abu Dhabi Harlequins).

Harry Seward (Abu Dhabi Harlequins).

Adam Telford (UAE International, Jebal Ali Dragons).

Aaron Palmer (Qatar International, Manawatu NPC, Doha RFC).

Conor Coakley (Dubai Hurricanes).

Brendan Rawlings (Exeter Chiefs, Dubai Hurricanes).

Winston Cowie (Oxford University Blue, Doha RFC).

Wade Quinn (Qatar International, Bahrain RFC).

Jamie Clarke (UAE International, Doha RFC).

Stephen Ferguson (Dubai Exiles).


Ed Lewsey (UAE International, Exeter Chiefs, Abu Dhabi Harlequins).

Luke Stevenson (Abu Dhabi Harlequins).

Sam Priest (Doha RFC).

Sam Wilson (Bahrain RFC).

Adam Wallace (Bahrain RFC).

Sean Carey (Dubai Hurricanes).

Steve Hamilton (England Counties, Abu Dhabi Saracens).

Mike Pugliese (Abu Dhabi Saracens).

Tom Calnan (UAE Rugby and Rugby League International, Abu Dhabi Harlequins).

Caleb Anderson (Dubai Sharks).


Mike Ballard (Abu Dhabi Harlequins).

Charles Etchells (Medic, Manchester University).

Air Seychelles Mike Ballard Foundation Conquistadors 2016

Air Seychelles Mike Ballard Foundation Conquistadors Team Details

The team consists of players from three of the Arabian Gulf countries – Bahrain, UAE, and Qatar.

Players have been selected from eight of the Arabian Gulf Clubs – Abu Dhabi Harlequins, Abu Dhabi Saracens, Bahrain RFC, Doha RFC, Dubai Exiles, Dubai Hurricanes, Dubai Sharks, and Jebal Ali Dragons.

Seven are from the Abu Dhabi Harlequins (Mike Ballard’s Club); five from Doha RFC; three each Bahrain RFC and the Dubai Hurricanes; two from Abu Dhabi Saracens, and one each from Dubai Exiles, Dubai Sharks, and Jebal Ali Dragons.

The team boasts 9 internationals including the two most capped UAE players of all time – props Chris Jones-Griffiths and Graham Murphy.

It consists of two former UAE Player of the Year nominees –Mike Ballard and Stephen Ferguson (who  was voted the UAE Premiership player of the year for the championship winning Dubai Exiles in 2016); and two former Exeter Chiefs professional players – No.9 Ed Lewsey and rampaging loose forward, Brendan Rawlings.

Eight squad members have captained their club sides – Aaron Palmer, Winston Cowie, Jamie Clarke (Doha RFC); Ed Lewsey (Abu Dhabi Harlequins); Adam Wallace and Sam Wilson (Bahrain RFC); Conor Coakley (Dubai Hurricanes); and Steve Hamilton (Abu Dhabi Saracens).

The playing team includes four coaches – Winston Cowie (former Keble College (Oxford University), Abu Dhabi Harlequins Assistant and Conquistadors Coach); Ed Lewsey (Abu Dhabi Harlequins Assistant, British School of Al Khubairat and Conquistadors); Aaron Palmer (Doha RFC and Qatar National Team Coach); and Steve Hamilton (Abu Dhabi Saracens Coach).

Both Palmer and Cowie, who played together at Doha between 2008 and 2012, have won the Arabian Gulf Premiership coaching clubs since – Cowie with the Abu Dhabi Harlequins in 2014 (unbeaten) and Palmer with Doha RFC in 2015, with Palmer also winning the West Asian Club Championship with Doha in 2012 and the inaugural Champion’s League this year. Palmer, a former Manawatu NPC player, is also the Qatar international side coach having won an impressive eight out of nine internationals with the side, including recently the West Asia Division III Championship.

The Conquistadors have players with rugby pedigree across the park.

The forward pack is gnarled with experience. Up front there is experience galore with over 50 tests for the UAE between Chris Jones-Griffiths and Graham Murphy; and the recently capped Tom Nolan (Doha RFC), who impressively debuted for Qatar with a meat pie; locks including the experienced Aaron Palmer (Manawatu NPC, Doha RFC and Qatar player / coach), Adam Telford (current UAE international hailing from the Jebal Ali Dragons); Conor Coakley (former Doha RFC and Dubai Hurricanes stalwart); and a powerful mix of loose forwards including former Exeter Chiefs pro and now fitness instructor with B2B, Brendan Rawlings, Jamie Clarke (current Doha RFC captain and former UAE international); Wade Quinn (North Queensland’s favourite son, an integral member of the Bahrain RFC pack); and Stephen Ferguson (the UAE premiership’s player of the season. Winston Cowie (Doha RFC top forward try scorer record holder (37 tries in 42 matches), moves back up to a hooking role where he played two Varsity Matches for Oxford University.

The backline is also looking rather sharp, with the inside halve pairing from Abu Dhabi Harlequins, Ed Lewsey and Luke Stevenson; midfielders including the exceptional Stephen Hamilton (former England Counties and current Abu Dhabi Saracens coach) and the big and bludgeoning Adam Wallace (Bahrain RFC); and a back three that includes Bahrain stalwart, and former North Harbour age grade representative, Sam Wilson, Conquistadors top points scorer, Sean Carey; Tom Calnan (the eldest dual rugby and rugby league international); Sam Priest (Doha RFC, Oxford University and Canterbury age grade); former Bahrain RFC and now Dubai Sharks, Caleb Anderson, and the solid and sharp Mike Pugliese (Abu Dhabi Saracens).

With an experienced group of players and coaches, the Air Seychelles Mike Ballard Foundation Conquistadors are already strategizing how best to play the Makis at their intimidating national stadium; how to face their haka; and all in front of a projected home crowd of 35,000 people. It will be fast, furious, and an exciting match. Rugby will be the winner.

Of special note, Guinness Book of Records World Record Holder, Tom Calnan, the eldest dual international to debut in both rugby union and rugby league, will be coming out of retirement for the match.

Madagascar National Rugby Team – The ‘Makis’

Madagascar are currently preparing to play in the 2016 Africa Cup, Division 1B, Group B. In summary, African Cup, Division 1B consists of two groups:

Group A: 3 teams: Tunisia (No. 40), Ivory Coast (No.51) & Botswana (No.63).

Group B: 3 teams: Madagascar (No. 41), Senegal (No.49) & Zambia (No. 81).

The winners of groups A and B will play the Cup final on 16th July. The winner of the Cup final will gain promotion to Division 1A, the Top 4 of African nations, for 2017. The objective of the Madagascar Makis is to win the Africa Cup, Division 1B, and be promoted to Division 1A. Being part of Division 1A will allow the Makis the opportunity to participate in the qualification tournament for the 2019 RWC in Japan.

The match between the Madagascar Makis and the Air Seychelles Mike Ballard Foundation Conquistadors will be perfect preparation for the Makis as they attempt to win the African Cup, Division 1B.

madagascar rugby union

Please get involved!

If you are a school or a club member and want to get involved, please contact the most relevant of our Air Seychelles Mike Ballard Foundation Conquistadors to you.  We would be grateful for your donated junior kit, or for seniors, any rugby kit and boots you no longer need – boots are in a shortage of supply in the Madagascan men’s senior matches. Every bit helps!

Club focal points are as follows:

  • Abu Dhabi Harlequins:

o   Graham Murphy. grmurphy@tcd.iev

o   Edward Lewsey:

  • Abu Dhabi Saracens:

o   Steve Hamilton.

  • Bahrain:

o   Sam Wilson.

  • Doha:

o   Aaron Palmer:

  • Dubai Hurricanes:

o   Andrew Powell:

  • Jebal Ali Dragons:

o   Andrew Carpin:

  • Dubai Exiles:

o   Kristian Stinson:

  • Dubai Sharks:

o   Caleb Anderson:

  General Queries and Media

For general “good will mission” enquiries or media queries, please contact Winston Cowie:

Many thanks to our sponsors!

Air Seychelles Mike Ballard Foundation

Mcgettigens Mike Ballard Conquistadors

Hill International Mike Ballard Foundation Conquistadors

Kukri Mike Ballard Conquistadors

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We will keep you posted as the rugby gear comes in from clubs and schools.

13 days to go.