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

ALEC logoLive Nation Middle East


GoSport QBJ ok


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

13 days to go.



Air Seychelles Mike Ballard Foundation Conquistadors – “Seychelles & Madagascar Rugby Goodwill Mission 2016”

Some very exciting news.

In June, the Air Seychelles Mike Ballard Foundation Conquistadors Rugby Team embark on a new adventure and goodwill mission… Seychelles and Madagascar.

Air Seychelles Mike Ballard Foundation Conquistadors 2016Through the generosity of our primary sponsor, Air Seychelles, an Etihad Airways partner, and sponsors Hill International Claims Group, McGettigans, Kukri, Live Nation Middle East, Alec – Building Excellence, and Khansaheb, we are travelling to Seychelles and Madagascar to:

  • Deliver 50 new wheelchairs to Seychelles Hospital and the Aide Manjakasoa Madagascar rehabilitation facility in Madagascar;
  • Hold junior rugby coaching clinics and deliver junior rugby clothing, boots and gear, collected from rugby clubs and schools in the Arabian Gulf region, to rugby clubs in the Antananarivo region, Madagascar;
  • Play an ‘exhibition match’ against the Madagascan Rugby Team, the Makis (the Malagasy name for the ‘ring-tailed lemur’), currently ranked at No.41 in the world; and
  • Set up meaningful relationships between rugby clubs and schools in the Arabian Gulf and Madagascar.

Invitation from the Honourable Chairman of Malagasy Rugby

The honourable chairman of Malagasy Rugby, Mr Marcel Rakotomalala, comments on the upcoming mission:

My dear friends, I would like to extend my warmest thanks to all the members of the Air Seychelles Mike Ballard Foundation Conquistadors with regard to the sporting and charitable actions they will perform in Antananarivo so as to support the development of Rugby in Madagascar.

We fully appreciate the opportunity to play the Air Seychelles Mike Ballard Foundation Conquistadors in the context of a friendly match. This game will provide our national team the XV Makis with a genuine preparation for the 2016 African Cup of Nations.

It will be a great honour for us to welcome you in the purest tradition of the Malagasy hospitality and it will be our duty to make you discover some of the best sights of Madagascar.

This will be an opportunity to share with you a great rugby and human experience that will long remain in our memories.

Marcel Rakotomalala, Chairman of MALAGASY RUGBY.

Who we are:

The Air Seychelles Mike Ballard Foundation Conquistadors rugby team’s ethos is to have a positive impact on people through Rugby Union.

Originally set up for the Dubai 7s in 2015 to support Mike Ballard, an American national and former UAE Rugby Player of the Year nominee, who suffered a serious spinal injury when playing in 2014, Mike and the team now wish to “help others” through an annual “goodwill” mission.

Our team is made up of players from most rugby clubs in the Arabian Gulf region, including Abu Dhabi Harlequins, Abu Dhabi Saracens, Bahrain, Doha, Dubai Hurricanes, Dubai Exiles, Jebal Ali Dragons, and Muscat.

The team’s manager, Mike Ballard, will be at the forefront of the Seychelles and Madagascar good will mission – Mike has courageously recently returned to Abu Dhabi to live and work, taking up a place at his old school, the “New England Centre for Children with Autism”, where his teaching greatly inspired the autistic children and their families.

Mike comments on the mission: “This is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity for everyone involved. It just goes to show what a wonderful rugby community there is in the Arabian Gulf – with the community once again coming together for a good cause, with a bit of rugby thrown in as well.”

The team is coached by former Oxford Blue and Doha captain, Winston Cowie; and Ed Lewsey, current UAE international, former Exeter Chiefs professional and Director of Rugby at the British School of Al Khubairat.

We are “good blokes, with good intentions, seeking good outcomes.”

We are also well versed in sixteenth century Spanish and Portuguese discovery history – particularly in the Pacific and Australasian region. A learned bunch, the Conquistadors should be able to answer any queries you may have about the age of discovery – the opening of the maritime trade routes. Feel free to test us!

The Mission

Enroute to Madagascar, we are stopping over in Seychelles, and with the support of Air Seychelles, will be gifting a number of new wheelchairs to support Seychelles Hospital, in addition to donating rugby kit to the Seychelles Rugby Union.

We have chosen Madagascar to tour because it is a country that is rugby mad (with the third highest number of registrations in Africa), and because the majority of rugby playing children (90%) don’t have access to rugby uniforms and gear.

To give further context, Madagascar is a developing country where nine out of ten people live on less than two dollars a day. It is also a country in which rugby is the national sport with over 48,000 participants, and with a national team, the Makis, who are ranked 41st in the world.

We want to do our best to not only distribute jerseys and wheelchairs, hold rugby coaching clinics and play a rugby match against the Makis; more importantly – we really want to establish meaningful relationships between clubs and schools in Madagascar and the Arabian Gulf region.

Sponsors – Air Seychelles, Hill International, McGettigans, Kukri, Alec – Building Excellence, Live Nation Middle East, Khansaheb, and Go Sport!

We are incredibly grateful for the kind sponsorship of the Air Seychelles Mike Ballard Foundation Conquistadors by:

Primary sponsor: Air Seychelles – an Etihad Airways partner.

And:  Hill International Claims Group, McGettigans, Kukri Sports, Alec – Building Excellence, Live Nation Middle East, Khansaheb, and Go Sport.

Roy Kinnear, Chief Executive Officer of primary sponsor Air Seychelles comments:

“Air Seychelles is very proud to be part of this initiative which will make a positive impact in the lives of many people with disabilities which depend upon wheelchairs for their mobility. As the national flag carrier of the Republic of Seychelles, we are pleased to be able to play a role in facilitating these very much needed equipment for patients, both in Seychelles and Madagascar. At the same time, this project has a twofold purpose, promoting healthy ways of living through sports, which is another area of focus of our airline.”    

Thank you Air Seychelles, Hill International Claims Group, McGettigans, and Kukri Sports for all for making this wonderful initiative possible!

More details on our fantastic sponsors are provided below.

We need your help! We aim to gather at least one full set of second hand junior rugby kit from most of the rugby clubs and rugby playing schools in the Arabian Gulf – jerseys, shorts, socks, boots, and balls for between U8s and U14s. We would like to go to Madagascar with enough kit to gift two full sets (one U8 and one U14) to each rugby club and school we visit – with seven clubs and three schools currently in the programme.

If you, your club or school has kit that could be donated, we would be grateful to hear from you. It all helps!

On the day of the ‘exhibition match’ there will be a curtain raiser 7s tournament held amongst the rugby clubs and schools that we have distributed the kit to – schools and clubs – we can put you in touch with your new brother club or school in Madagascar!

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. 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:

  • Muscat:

o   Ross O’Loughlin:

General Enquiries and Media

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

Sponsorship Enquiries

For additional sponsorship queries, please contact Conor Coakley:

Sponsor Information

Air Seychelles Mike Ballard Foundation

Air Seychelles was established in 1978 and began long-haul service in 1983. The airline currently offers international flights to Abu Dhabi, Antananarivo, Beijing, Johannesburg, Mauritius, Mumbai and Paris. Air Seychelles also offers more than 200 domestic scheduled flights a week throughout the archipelago, including domestic charter services.  As the national airline of the Republic of Seychelles, Air Seychelles is a pillar of tourism, the island nation’s strongest and growing economic sector. The airline maintains a strategic partnership with Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates and 40 per cent stakeholder. For more information, please visit:

Air Seychelles Media inquiries

Maja Gedosev / Air Seychelles Corporate Affairs

Tel: +248 2500 833 / Email:

Hill International Mike Ballard Foundation Conquistadors
As a global leader in construction consulting, with a portfolio of some of the world’s largest and most prestigious projects in every major sector of the construction industry, Hill International are committed to excellence, providing an unrivalled depth of resources, experience and services, including construction claims, project and cost management. With $500 billion in projects under management and experience on over 50,000 claims worth more than $100 billion, Hill are at the leading edge of international construction claims and project management, providing practical advice to contractors, employers, consultants, solicitors, banks and financial institutions. With over 4,800 professionals in 100 offices worldwide, Hill has the experience and the expertise to help their clients deliver their projects on time, and within budget, and with the highest quality possible. Our history is defined by thousands of successful projects. Our future is defined by the success of your next project.

McGettigan’s Pub was first opened in Ireland in the 1960’s, on Queen Street in Dublin by Jim McGettigan. Since that day, the business has grown from Dublin, moved to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, back home to Donegal, Limerick and Galway with further locations in Singapore, Clarke Quay and New York City. 2010 saw the very first McGettigan’s Irish Pub open its doors in Dubai at Jumeirah Lakes Towers. Eighteen short months later, the McGettigan’s story in Dubai expanded with the opening of both McGettigan’s Irish Pubs at Dubai World Trade Centre and Dubai International Airport.

McGettigan’s at the Al Raha Beach Hotel in Abu Dhabi has become an instant hit with local ex-pats and saw over 900 guests arriving to the launch night on May 2014. Dennis McGettigan spotted the demand for the pub in Abu Dhabi after speaking with guests in the Dubai pubs who told him that they happily make the journey from Abu Dhabi to Dubai by taxi, simply to have a pint.

Unique décor, delicious Irish food & drinks, the best Irish and international entertainment and sporting events are the ingredients that have made McGettigan’s Irish Pubs such a success in the United Arab Emirates.

Kukri Mike Ballard Conquistadors

Kukri are a specialist bespoke sportswear brand operating globally with an office in Dubai that looks after the Middle East region. We provide garments for up to 100 different sports and work with a number of the major schools and sports clubs in the region.

The DNA of Kukri Sports dates back to 1979, when the British Army Gurkhas and RAF joined together to create a stronger rugby club, the Flying Kukris. Our mission from the outset was to give clubs a choice, an identity, and for them to be proud of their team colours.

Chris Marshall, General Manager of Kukri Middle East, and one of the goodwill mission squad, comments:

“Mike Ballard is a close friend of mine that I played alongside with Abu Dhabi Harlequins. It’s a real privilege for my company to be involved with fund raisers and events such as the Conquistadors that support his foundation.”

ALEC logo

ALEC is the preferred contractor of choice for the execution of major, complex construction projects. The company started in the UAE in 1999, with a firm vision to raise the level of design and construction services and we currently operate in UAE, Oman and Qatar. ALEC has delivered developments of the highest quality to key clients many of which have become significant landmarks. The scope of ALEC’s projects includes: airport terminals, themed projects, hotels, retail developments, commercial buildings and residential.

Live Nation Middle East

Live Nation is the largest live entertainment company in the world – now operating in over 40 countries and with a network of offices that far exceeds any competitor. Each year we produce over 22,000 events reaching an audience of over 200 million people. We are associated with superstars such as U2 and Madonna and now the soon to be infamous Conquistadors Select XV Rugby team working on the behalf of the Mike Ballard Foundation. Being an entertainment company we hope you play entertaining rugby on the pitch. What a great cause……….. Best of luck in Madagascar.


Khansaheb Civil Engineering L.L.C. was founded in 1935, making it the longest standing contractor in the United Arab Emirates.

Since then Khansaheb has developed into the highly respected company that it is today – a company renowned for professionalism, integrity, high quality and reliable delivery, and ultimate customer satisfaction, with experience across all building and infrastructure sectors.

In partnership with the UK’s Interserve since 1981, Khansaheb provides a combination of local knowledge and experience, management expertise and a professional service supported by international management systems and procedures. This partnership has enabled Khansaheb to become one of the leading construction and Facilities Management companies in the UAE, providing whole-life sustainable solutions for building and infrastructure projects from initial business case, through design, procurement and delivery into ongoing aftercare – creating, constructing and maintaining physical assets that underpin the fabric of society.

For further information, please visit:

GoSport QBJ ok

Since 2007 GO Sport Middle East, under the Al Mana Fashion Group, has been bringing the latest trends in sport apparel and equipment to the urban consumer across the region, whether they are sports fans or players.   GO Sport also ensures that the selection in store is built around quality products in both the technical and lifestyle categories.  As a  leader in sports,  GO Sport takes pride in providing sponsorship and assistance within the respective sporting communities as well as raising funds for various charities and/or causes.”

Watch this space for more information on the Air Seychelles Mike Ballard Foundation Madagascar and Seychelles Rugby Goodwill Mission 2016.

The ‘Goodwill Mission’ Squad will be named shortly.

72 days to go.