x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

UAE rugby manager Duncan Hall wants to see passion

The new performance manager for UAE Rugby said he has no preconceived notions about which players should be in the national team.

The UAE, in white, had a humbling experience as hosts of the inaugural Emirates Cup of Nations in December, losing all three of their games by heavy margins.
The UAE, in white, had a humbling experience as hosts of the inaugural Emirates Cup of Nations in December, losing all three of their games by heavy margins.

Duncan Hall, the new performance manager for UAE Rugby, said he has no preconceived notions about which players should be in the national team.

"This is an open team for me at this point," Hall, an Australian who has coached in Indonesia, the United States and Australia, said yesterday.

"We can assemble a group of guys to train and see who wants to get there the most."

He said his exposure to the UAE squad before this weekend was limited to watching them on television in Australia during the Four Nations tournament in December.

He arrived in Dubai on Friday and watched some club games and a juniors festival at the weekend, and he will meet the senior team for the first time tonight.

But he intends to learn a lot more about his new squad over the next two months as they hold twice-a-week training sessions ahead of their opening HSBC Asian Five Nations match with Hong Kong in April.

"When I was coaching in Indonesia, I was given 30 players and it was up to me to find the ones for the first team," he said. "Here, I have the luxury of watching all the players develop over the next eight weeks until we start having trial games in April."

One of his first goals, Hall said, will be to avoid relegation in the Asian Five Nations. The UAE finished third last year.

"Korea have come up this year, and Sri Lanka were relegated," he said. "We have to be in position to make sure that's not us."

Hall said he considers the amateur status in rugby in the UAE as the biggest challenge to the development of players.

"At the end of the day it's an amateur game and people are working [regular jobs] and playing rugby as a passion while aspiring to be at the highest level they can," he said. "So for players here, time management is important. They have to be able to put in the appropriate amount of time to be a rugby player. But the sponsorship and funding is there for them to play games and improve."

Hall said he faced the same impediments when he was coach of the US team in 2000/2001.

"We had no squad training," he said. "We would get together on the way to a match, and if we were lucky get two or three days together."

Hall previously held positions as the head coach with USA Rugby and the state director of coaching for Queensland Rugby. He also has English Premiership experience with Leicester Tigers and Worcester Warriors and Super XV involvement with the New South Wales Waratahs.

His playing experience includes 15 Test matches for Australia.

"We are very excited to welcome Duncan into the UAE Rugby management team," Mohammed Falaknaz, the chairman of UAE Rugby, said in a statement.

"Duncan has exceptionally impressive, quantifiable qualifications in developing players and teams through implementing effective practices and we envisage his top-level experience to be invaluable in our goal to improve our ranking in Asia."

Hall said his role here is not to develop the game in schools, but to "take the older players and give them the opportunity to be the best players that they can be", he said.

"Players need a lot of intuitive play to be at that next level," he said.

"If you have to think too much about what you're doing, the game has passed you by."

rmashburn@thenational.ae