Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 29 May 2020

On this day, May 10, 2013: Eddie Jones’s Japan thrash UAE in a rugby Test match in Dubai

Memories of that 93-3 defeat will have endured long after the bruises have faded. Most notably, the identity of the opposition coach

Seiichi Shimomura, centre, takes on the UAE during the Test match at The Sevens on May 10, 2013. AFP
Seiichi Shimomura, centre, takes on the UAE during the Test match at The Sevens on May 10, 2013. AFP

Rugby’s spirit of camaraderie means it is not unusual for opposing players to have their picture taken with each other after matches.

The shots the UAE players got after their Test match against Japan in Dubai on this day in 2013 should be cherished keepsakes by now.

Memories of that 93-3 defeat will have endured long after the bruises have faded. Most notably, the identity of the opposition coach.

Any encounter with Asian rugby’s one great superpower was guaranteed to be Mission Impossible for the part-timers from the Emirates.

To put the challenge into focus, on this occasion, Japan’s coach was Eddie Jones.

Pitch Two at The Sevens, lined as it is by neatly manicured grassed banks, might seem a little humble for a man of Jones’ achievements. The uber-coach, after all, has been to World Cup finals with three different teams.

At this point in time, though, he was midway through masterminding Japan’s campaign to make a success of the 2015 World Cup in England.

At this point, they had won just one World Cup match ever, and that way back in 1991.

That would be rectified in such dramatic fashion two years later, with the win over South Africa in Brighton that even inspired a movie.

Given the disparity in resources available to the two nations, Japan really did not need a coach of Jones’ calibre to be assured a win in Dubai.

On their previous trip to the city for an Asian Five Nations fixture, they had meted out a 111-0 drubbing to their hosts on the main field at The Sevens.

This time around, they opted to rest a number of first team players with a view to a heavy schedule they had to follow – but ended up falling a converted try short of reaching three figures again.

Jones happily posed for photos with the defeated UAE players, and was complimentary about their efforts.

“The UAE got stuck in, they contested well and made the breakdown difficult for us,” Jones said, before offering an opinion on the next assignment UAE would face.

“I'm sure the UAE, if they play like that against the Philippines, will do well.”

Unlike a year earlier, when Jones had correctly forecast UAE would win their seminal match against Kazakhstan and retain their place in the top-tier of Asian rugby, he was wrong this time.

A week later, UAE lost to Philippines and were relegated from the Asian Five Nations. They have not been back to the top flight since.

That was the real bitter pill, not the trouncing by Japan. The Philippines was seen as a winnable match – the Japan one certainly was not.

“Quite simply, Japan are a juggernaut, they are well ahead of the competition in fitness, skill, resources and development," Duncan Hall, the UAE coach, had said in the lead up to the game.

“Our overall goal from the 2013 tournament is to retain our position in the Top Five and we had identified two games as winnable. That is not our goal or focus for this match.”

Updated: May 10, 2020 12:12 PM

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