Dubai: UAE national rugby team coach Duncan Hall has targeted three wins out of four in the forthcoming HSBC Asian Five Nations.
Having finished an impressive third in last year's tournament in the UAE's first year as a team following the break-up of the GCC-wide Arabian Gulf Rugby Football Union (AGRFU), newly-appointed Hall debuts with similar expectations this year, despite a spate of recent retirements and departures from the 15s set-up.
A depleted UAE team plays Hong Kong at the Sevens Stadium tomorrow from 8pm to kick-off a four-match campaign which also takes them to Japan on May 5, before facing Kazakhstan at home on May 11 and South Korea away on May 26.
The coach believes his charges can get the better of Hong Kong, Kazakhstan and South Korea, but admits toppling Japan may be a step too far.
Hall, who has prepared his squad with friendly games against Tunisia (lost 7-18) and the Gulf Barbarians (won 54-21), said: "Hong Kong are similar to us in that they are largely amateur expatriates dedicating time to the game around work and family commitments. They have the advantage of experience with just one new face since last year, whereas we have ten new caps. We are reasonably even ahead of the game but they have the edge in terms of time together as a squad.
"Most class us as underdogs in the tournament overall, but I believe all games with the exception of perhaps Japan are winnable. Everyone else is under them, but the beauty of the contest is, if you perform you have a chance. If you don't you're on the wrong side of the ledger."
"The new guys will have to rise to the occasion and the better players will have to play well. If only half can do that we're in trouble. If everyone just plays the best they can I'll be happy.
"Everyone is trying to win, no one goes out not to. They have to utilise the tools which enable them to triumph. What they lack in fitness they make up for in skills and motivation. We need to show we can challenge the try line and keep possession building our first phase play, because rugby can be a cruel game for those who don't have the ball," Hall said.
"The perceived hardest two games come first. We have to come out of these matches with minimal injuries in time for Kazakhstan and Korea. The UAE did fantastically well to finish third last year and we don't want to let the previous squad down."
UAE vs Hong Kong, April 27 (8pm), The Sevens, Dubai
Japan vs UAE, May 5 (4pm), Level 5 Stadium, Fukuoka
UAE vs Kazakhstan, May 11 (4pm), The Sevens, Dubai
Korea vs UAE, May 26 (1pm), Seongnam Stadium, Seoul
kick-off times are local at host venue