x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Australia to Japan and UAE, a tale of two rugby coaches

Hall to take confidence from last win over former New South Wales teammate but Jones' Japan are formidable foes now.

Jebel Ali, United Arab Emirates, April 25 2012, Jebel Ali Centre of Excellence, (centre back) UAE Rugby Training-(centre front) UAE Coach Duncan Hall during practice at the Jebel Ali Centre of Excellence traing pitch. Mike Young / The National?
Jebel Ali, United Arab Emirates, April 25 2012, Jebel Ali Centre of Excellence, (centre back) UAE Rugby Training-(centre front) UAE Coach Duncan Hall during practice at the Jebel Ali Centre of Excellence traing pitch. Mike Young / The National?

The last time Duncan Hall, the UAE performance director, shared a rugby field with Eddie Jones, he had his hand between his legs and his head next to his backside.

Given the recent history of matches between the UAE and Japan, the view is unlikely to be a great deal better when the one-time state teammates are reacquainted today.

Back in 1986, Hall played in the second-row for the New South Wales state side, with Jones just in front of him at hooker.

They have taken widely differing routes to get to the Level Five stadium in Fukuoka today. Since they graduated into coaching, Jones has won the Super rugby title, been a runner-up at a World Cup with his native Australia, and acted as consultant to South Africa's winning side in 2007.

Meanwhile, Hall has operated "outside of rugby's mainstream", as he describes his involvement with an emerging United States, Indonesia and now the UAE.

Similarly, they have wildly differing resources at their disposal today. Jones's Japan, the defending Five Nations champions, have a blemish-free record from their four-year involvement in this competition.

By contrast, the UAE are already bracing themselves for a relegation battle in the top tier of continental rugby.

Hall is sanguine about the fixture, though. "At the moment I am actually 1-0 up against Japan," he said ahead of today's mission improbable in the Far East.

"We beat them once with America in Osaka a few years ago. It could be 1-1 after this one, but I'll be working hard to make it 2-0. It will be good to challenge [Jones] again."

Despite his cheery disposition, Hall is in no doubt about the size of the task facing his side. However, he has already been handed a vote of confidence by the man on the other side of the fence.

"He is very honest, direct and hard working," Jones said of his former state colleague and rival in Sydney club rugby.

"He played with a lot of good players and was coached by good coaches like Bob Dwyer, so he has a lot of knowledge to bring to UAE rugby."

Japan's record in the Five Nations is imposing: played 17, won 17, all with a four-try bonus point. It is difficult to see how Jones, who took over the vacant role in charge of the national team in April after leading Suntory to the domestic league title last season, can improve their fortunes too much.

But he will try.

"We are building a house and have put half a brick down," said Jones, who said Japan have failed in their objective of closing the gap on international rugby's elite nations. "We are starting again. The reality is, Japan haven't won a World Cup game for 20 years. We needed to change things … and we are just starting."

Jones aims to reduce the reliance of the Cherry Blossoms on "second- and third-rate" overseas players, and create a new, Japanese style of play.

 

pradley@thenational.ae