Duncan Hall calm ahead of UAE's crunch clash
UAE boss Duncan Hall insists he isn't feeling any added pressure despite his side facing a potential do-or-die Asian Five Nations encounter against Kazakhstan tomorrow.
Korea’s shock victory over heavyweights Hong Kong last Saturday has left the national team staring down the barrel of relegation from the top division and, barring any major upsets over the next three weeks, they need to win at The Sevens to guarantee survival.
However, even with so much at stake, Hall is adamant his players won’t be overawed by the occasion.
“It’s great for South Korea that they beat Hong Kong, but it really puts the cat amongst the pigeons,” admitted the coach, whose side take on Korea in their final match on May 26.
“It doesn’t change what we have to do in the game itself and whatever we have to do we have to win the match. We’re playing to win and preparing to win.”
Asked if he was treating the clash like a final, Hall told 7DAYS: “We’ve treated every match like a final. If finals are about lifting your standard then all these games are finals so we’ve got four of them. There’s a hell of lot at stake and we are working hard to have the scoreboard on our side.”
Having been chewed up and spat out against Hong Kong and Japan in the opening two weeks, the Aussie has been buoyed by the way his troops have pulled through that gruelling assignment.
Indeed, rather than feeling the effects of last week’s bruising trip to Fukuoka - the local lads were blown away 106-3 by the world No.14 - Hall believes it’s left them primed for Friday’s season-defining game.
“By doing it really tough and being put under immense pressure we’ve improved our defence,” the ex-Wallabies lock said. “We haven’t had many opportunities to attack... but we’ve all learnt more from it.”
Another good omen for the UAE is the result of last year’s corresponding tie against the Kazakhs - the well-earned 24-10 victory in Abu Dhabi is still the side’s sole win in their brief history.
Hall has no doubt that performance will be fresh in their rivals’ minds this weekend and is expecting a fiercely contested battle upfront. But having studied video footage of the Kazahks’ only match of the campaign to date - they were humbled 87-0 by Japan in the first round - the coach is confident they can meet fire with fire and open up opportunities for the pace men out wide.
“[Winger] Steve Smith showed his speed against Japan and we need to try and give him a few more opportunities,” Hall said. “I think what the backline are looking forward to is just playing under a little less pressure than they’ve been put under and being able to use the ball better.”