x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Our goals have been achieved, says UAE rugby official

UAE Rugby Association officials insist the national team have already exceeded expectations, ahead of their final Asian Five Nations match this weekend. Audio interview

The UAE, in white, sit fourth in the Asian Five Nations table as they prepare to face South Korea on Saturday. Their place in next season's competition is all but assured as Kazakhstan face leaders Hong Kong. Jeff Topping / The National
The UAE, in white, sit fourth in the Asian Five Nations table as they prepare to face South Korea on Saturday. Their place in next season's competition is all but assured as Kazakhstan face leaders Hong Kong. Jeff Topping / The National

DUBAI // UAE Rugby Association officials insist the national team have already exceeded expectations, ahead of their final Asian Five Nations match this weekend.

The representative side flew to Seoul last night, with another daunting challenge in prospect at the hands of a resurgent South Korea side on Saturday.

The home side are intent on finishing second in the competition, having already beaten a Hong Kong side which thrashed the UAE in Dubai last month.

The chances of the tourists winning in Seoul look slim, but the national governing body already regard their mission as having been accomplished.

The UAE all but safeguarded their place in the top tier of Asian rugby for another year when they beat Kazakhstan in Dubai two weekends ago. That will be confirmed if, as is likely, the Kazakhs lose in Hong Kong this weekend.

"We are very proud of what our national players, our coaches and support personnel have achieved in this year's Asian Five Nations," said Qais Al Dhalai, the association's deputy secretary.

"This team needed to focus and unite in a short time and aim high, [and] they have surpassed our expectations. We remain committed to the development and future successes of UAE rugby's national XV's team."

Despite the primary aim being achieved, the UAE will be hard pressed to deliver on the goal of Duncan Hall, the performance manager, namely by securing two wins in the competition.

Setting aside the disparity in results in the competition to date, South Korea also have a score to settle with the travelling side.

The Arabian Gulf - the precursors to the UAE side - condemned them to relegation the last time the sides met, in Dubai in 2010.

Demotion was a shock to the system for the side who had long regarded themselves as Japan's biggest rivals in Asian rugby, and they have been smarting from it since. Hall is well aware his side are facing a tough assignment.

"One thing that we don't have, which we can't coach, is outright speed," he said. "The Koreans have it, with two quick wingers and a fast fullback.

"The backline, let alone the forwards, will have their work cut out in defence, and we are well aware of that. We have done the work in training, now it is a matter of making the tackles."

Alistair Thompson, the UAE captain, added: "You just have to look at their results so far compared to ours to realise it is going to be a huge challenge. We are looking at performance rather than results, and if we can get that right the results speak for themselves."

pradley@thenational.ae

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