Hall realistic before UAE’s toughest test
"Learning" is a word you hear a lot from the mouth of Duncan Hall as he gets the UAE ready to face Asian Five Nations heavyweights Japan.
The coach is no fool and just a week after the local lads were hammered 85-10 by Hong Kong in the tournament opener, he knows victory against the defending champions this weekend is a forlorn hope.
However, Hall is also aware he’s got a team more than capable of matching their third-place finish of last year and is keen they raise their game for Saturday’s clash in Fukuoka.
“We’ve got about seven things we need to improve on and my feeling is that if we can get four to five of them better [against] Japan then we will have done well,” the Aussie told 7DAYS. “The guys had rarely played under that type of pressure [as they did against Hong Kong], we’ve 10 new caps this year and it’s learning experience.”
One thing Hall, appointed earlier this year, knows is a must, not only for Saturday’s match but for the rest of the championship, is an improved defence. Before the opener Hall was confident a shock wasn’t beyond his side against Hong Kong. But having witnessed the humbling he’s well aware of what went wrong.
“I’m looking to improve our ball retention and sort out the defensive lapses that cost us last week,” he added. “There were unforeseen turnovers that led to three or four tries.
“We were defending in the wrong positions on the field, the outside player would come inside and tackle the guy and that would take out three of our players and gift them an automatic overlap.
“We’ve got to mark up on players better. You can get away with it at club rugby, but not at this level with the extra pace. Japan have the same problem when they play at the World Cup.
“We did the best we can do but it’s clear we have things to improve in defence.”
If facing the best team wasn’t challenge enough, that they have to do it away, after a long arduous flight and less than two days acclimatisation, makes it all the more tough. Hall, though, accepts it’s simply the nature of having an amateur team and he has told the side to make sure they do their best and are ready for the must-win clash against Kazakhstan the following week.
“We’ve got to learn from these two games and come out ready to take on Kazakhstan, who we know don’t have backs like Japan or Hong Kong,” he said. “We’ll take what comes. “We’ll come into the Kazakhstan game on the back of two tough Test matches and knowing where the holes in our side are.”