x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Game will be won up front, says UAE coach Birtwistle

Beating Kazakhstan was nice and helped give them confidence, but the UAE rugby squad know that a different and more difficult challenge awaits when they face Japan.

DUBAI // Bruce Birtwistle, the UAE coach, will hand a debut to Jamie Clarke, the Abu Dhabi Harlequins captain, and a first start to David Vittes, the Dubai Exiles hooker, in a bid to quell a multi-skilled Japan pack tomorrow.

The task facing the UAE, in just their third Test match, could barely be any tougher.

Japan are ranked No 13 in the world and have played in every World Cup to date, as well as winning all 14 matches they have played since the HSBC Asian Five Nations was created in 2008.

However, buoyed by victory over Kazakhstan last time out, the UAE remain optimistic over the challenge facing them at The Sevens tomorrow

"We are aiming for a win but we also have to be realistic, and it is about narrowing the gap between the UAE and Japan," Birtwistle, who oversaw the Arabian Gulf's 60-5 defeat in Tokyo last year, said. "Whenever we take the field we aim to beat the opposition, regardless of whether it is Japan or anyone else.

"Beating Kazakhstan gave us a lift and we know there is a lot more left in us. It wasn't the best performance we can deliver, so we are looking at stepping it up against Japan.

"Our forwards have got a challenge ahead of them, as the game is going to be won up front.

"But the reason we play this game is to challenge ourselves and we will certainly have to do that against Japan."

The UAE were euphoric immediately after earning their maiden victory against the Kazakhs a fortnight ago.

Yet upon further assessment, they rated their performance as little more than "six-and-a-half out of 10", according to their captain, Mike Cox-Hill, who is demanding an improvement against Japan.

"If we play 150 per cent to our game plan, and they have a 50 per cent day off, we might be able to spring a surprise," he said.

"We know that we can play a lot better in our forwards and that we have a lot more to offer there."