x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Japan show how far UAE have to travel in their rugby journey

Bleak result points out difference between professional side and the semi-pro team.

Duncan Hall, centre, felt his UAE side had done the best they could against Japan.
Duncan Hall, centre, felt his UAE side had done the best they could against Japan.

Duncan Hall, the UAE performance manager, likened the national team's 106-3 demolition at the hands of Japan to attempting to scale Everest without the requisite equipment.

Japan's youngest-ever player, Yoshikazu Fujita, scored six tries on his debut as the side ranked No 14 in the world made predictably light work of their guests in Fukuoka on Saturday.

The hefty defeat was the latest episode in a bleak start to this year's Five Nations, which has already seen a demoralising home loss to Hong Kong provoke disquiet within the UAE's rugby community.

Hall pointed to the disparity of resources available to a fully-professional Japan and his group of part-timers as a reason for maintaining perspective on the loss.

"It is like you have to climb Everest, but you don't have the right kit," he said. "You do your best and you still get there. The boys climbed Everest today."

With South Korea also beating Hong Kong 21-19 on Saturday, the national team's status in the top flight seems certain to be decided by Friday's meeting with Kazakhstan at The Sevens.

According to Hall, the side's spirits are unlikely to be too adversely effected by the mauling in Japan, though. The former Australia international labelled the commitment shown by his players, particularly Brett Williams and Dave Matasio in the back row, as "magnificent".

"The guys we went to play against are full-time professionals with corporations, and train every day of the week," Hall said. "It would take us a number of years to get the strength and fitness that was required to play at the pace this game was played."

Eddie Jones, the former Australia coach who has been in charge of Japan since last month, insists the UAE can take heart from the way they fared against his side.

"You can't get away from the fact there were a different class of teams, but the UAE kept at it," said Jones, who was a former teammate of Hall's in Australian state rugby. "I was on the sidelines and they were talking away all the time about the areas they need to improve. If you have an attitude like that you have a chance of turning things around. They lost on the scoreboard, but in terms of attitude, there are some really good signs there."

It was the third time out of four meetings in this competitions that the representative team shipped in excess of 100 points against Asian rugby's dominant force.

Sean Hurley, the longest-serving player in the UAE line-up, insists the new Japan side, who have retained only four players from their Rugby World Cup campaign last year, are the best he has faced.

"These guys played amazingly fast rugby," the Jebel Ali Dragons winger said.

"I think we did fix things which were wrong [against Hong Kong], it's just that these guys play an amazingly fast game."

 

CAPTAIN DISAPPOINTED IN SMALL, ILL-TIMED INSURRECTION

Alistair Thompson, the UAE captain, has denounced the growing unrest within the game here, and acknowledged the timing of the discord has hurt the national team.

A group of senior players have made themselves unavailable for this season's Asian Five Nations after becoming disaffected at the way the game is being run in this country.

Their absence has left an already shallow pool of player available for Hall to pick from severely diminished.

The boycott, which is aimed at certain members of the game's administration, has brought with it criticism from some quarters.

Most notably, David Clark, the UAE-eligible No 8 who is based in Bahrain, has criticised the exiled players for not pulling together during a time of adversity.

Thompson also acknowledged the furore had been a hindrance, coming on the eve of the toughest fixture the UAE play, in Japan, and with a potential relegation decider to follow against Kazakhstan at The Sevens on Friday.

"We don't have resources like Japan have," Thompson, the Abu Dhabi Harlequins No 8, said after the heavy loss at Fukuoka.

"Our player pool is significantly reduced. What resources we do have we have to pull together and act as one. I don't really want to comment on what has been said because I am not really impressed about it.

"I'm more unimpressed about the timing of everything, coming in two weeks when we have two absolutely huge games for this country. For individuals to come out and voice concerns that ultimately are not about the players - although they do effect the players - it is not something we want to read about on the day we arrive in Japan."

 

pradley@thenational.ae

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