x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Duncan Hall quits as UAE rugby performance manager

The Australian vacates post saying 'putting structures in place have been like climbing Everest'.

Duncan Hall has had plenty of managerial experience in Indonesia, the United States and Australia. Mike Young for The National
Duncan Hall has had plenty of managerial experience in Indonesia, the United States and Australia. Mike Young for The National

Duncan Hall, the outgoing performance manager, says he is sad to be walking out on a job half done having ended his association with UAE rugby after 18 months.

The UAE Rugby Federation have begun the search for a replacement for Hall having accepted his resignation yesterday morning.

Hall became the UAE’s first full-time head coach at the start of 2012 after Bruce Birtwistle returned to his native New Zealand.
The 56-year-old former Australia player has now expressed his desire to return to his homeland to be with his family.

“You always want to see a job through, not just get half way,” Hall said. “I think the challenges involved in terms of putting the structures in place within UAE rugby have been like Everest. To get the guys to go out and play the games we have asked them to do when they have no chance of winning [has been a difficult task].

“Expectations are high on results from everyone, players and supporters. You want to do the best job you can do and be satisfied with it.

“In many ways I am, but I have my family back home, my wife has not settled – and that is not an excuse, because she has put up with it.

“If you are going to make a change you have to do it at the time that gives you the best chance for what happens next.”

When he was recruited, Hall was set two main targets

The primary aim was to keep the senior national team in the top tier of Asian competition.

After surviving in the Asian Five Nations in his first campaign at the helm last year, progress at Test level has been stunted, with the national team relegated from the the top tier following a 24-8 defeat in Manila last month.

He enjoyed greater success with the second imperative, though, which was to speed the development of Emirati players within the game here.

More Emiratis now play the sport than ever, as a result of a targeted programme within national schools.

Hall deems the most pleasurable moment of his time here to be the progress the all-Emirati Shaheen development side made at the Emirates International Sevens, a tournament for Arab nationals, earlier this year.

Hall’s successor is likely to be obligated to select an increasing number of Emirati players in representative sides hitherto dominated by expatriates.

The candidate will likely be somebody with Test experience who would be willing to move to Dubai and work on a salary thought to be in the region of Dh20,000 per month.

“I’m hopeful that at least a small amount of what we have started can stay there,” Hall said.

“If it’s not on paper I hope it is in hearts and minds that they are better people and better players for having known Duncan Hall. Hopefully that is the case.

“Because it is a very new organisation within rugby, learning about itself and finding its feet in the culture that is here, I don’t think anyone could explain the challenges [of UAE rugby] and be understood.”

Hall was conspicuous by his absence when the governing body announced a new link up with the Fijian Rugby Football Union at Al Manzil Hotel in Dubai on Friday.

A stated consequence of that memorandum of understanding is that the UAE will benefit from Fijian coaching expertise, especially in the sevens format in which Emirati players are being fast-tracked.

Whether that means a new Fijian performance director, perhaps of the ilk of Iliesa Tanivula or the great Waisale Serevi, remains to be seen.

Chester Williams, a former South Africa sevens coach, also recently reiterated he would be keen to coach in the UAE.

“We have regrettably accepted Duncan’s resignation and fully understand his reasons for leaving the UAERF,” said Mohammed Falaknaz, the federation chairman.

“In wishing him well for the future we would also wish to acknowledge his contribution to the organisation and the foundations he has laid particularly with the Shaheen programme.

“We will immediately commence a search initially for a national sevens coach for the Asian Sevens Series.”
Sean Hurley, the longest serving player in the UAE set up, believes the game here is losing a coach of vast experience and “old school” values.

“Duncan offered a lot of experience, encouraged the guys to take responsibility themselves and asked questions of us all,” Hurley said. “It was a different style of coaching to what I had experienced in the past.

“He is a lovely bloke who brought a lot old school values which have been forgotten about in the modern game.”

pradley@thenational.ae

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