x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

UAE Rugby Association wanted 'someone to understand us' for manager

Deputy secretary general Al Dhalai reveals why they picked Duncan Hall over more famous names.

Qais Al Dhalai has said the players have the support of the RA.
Qais Al Dhalai has said the players have the support of the RA.

DUBAI //In a country where sporting vanity projects are not uncommon, the UAE Rugby Association say they consciously opted for substance over celebrity when they recruited Duncan Hall as their performance manager.

When rugby's governing body first advertised the new position, they initially expressed confidence they would land a coach of international renown, possibly someone involved in coaching a side at the last World Cup.

Hall does not fit that description. In his own words, the former Australia international has been working "in the periphery of mainstream rugby" for a while now.

Ironically, one of the decision makers behind the appointment, Qais Al Dhalai, is a former footballer for Al Wasl, the club with the ultimate celebrity manager, Diego Maradona.

"When we put this post open for applications, we received many, many CVs," said the UAE RA's deputy secretary general, who had to retire from football aged 22 after suffering injuries to both his knees.

"We made a shortlist of three and they were all famous. Not Diego Maradona famous, but they were famous in their region.

"We looked at it differently. If we were to get John Kirwan [the former Japan coach], what would we do with him? Is he capable of raising the Emirati players to the level where we want to see them? What about if I got [England's sevens coach] Ben Ryan here?

"We don't need someone very famous, a star of rugby. We need someone to understand us. This is what we want from Duncan.

"We want him to accommodate himself within our family. This is a different culture. We want to see rugby growing and growing in the coming years."

pradley@thenational.ae

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