x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

A mounting to-do list awaits new manager Duncan Hall

The UAE's new performance manager has his hands full of challenges.

The UAE national team have some catching up to do compared to other Asian nations.
The UAE national team have some catching up to do compared to other Asian nations.

When Duncan Hall arrived in Dubai last week to start his job as the new performance manager of UAE rugby, he should have found an in-tray that was filled to overflowing.

Top of the agenda for a man who will be judged on the results of the national team, will be the performance of the side in the Asian Five Nations at the end of this season. That the UAE must retain their place in the top division is a prerequisite.

Even allowing for the fact it was their first competition as a side, since assuming the place of the defunct Arabian Gulf, they finished third without even fulfilling their potential last season.

Survival this year will be a tougher propositional altogether, however. Sri Lanka have been replaced by Korea, who are likely to represent far stronger opposition.

Kazakhstan will be keen for revenge when they return to these shores after their ill-tempered loss in Abu Dhabi, while the gap between the UAE and Hong Kong has become a gulf in recent times.

Next on the to-do list will be to work out a viable way of bringing the small group of Emiratis who are playing senior rugby up to the required standard for them to earn international recognition on merit.

Hall has already had a glimpse of the standard of the UAE Shaheen development side. Much work needs to be done with them.

His third major challenge will be to lay out a workable conditioning programme for the leading players in the country.

The shape of the UAE players in comparison to their counterparts in the Emirates Cup of Nations tournament in December was telling.

For the most part, they looked like bank managers, engineers and surveyors. Which is probably because they are.

As Hall pointed out when he arrived here, only around 12 nations in the world can afford to have a broad base of full-time professionals.

The rest have to make do with training around their day jobs. One thing is for certain, though, this cannot be used as an excuse for much longer if UAE rugby is to genuinely progress. "For players here, time management is important," Hall, who knows all about work-sport balance having earned 15 caps for Australia in the amateur era, said this week.

"They have to be able to put in the appropriate amount of time to be a rugby player."