Captain Cox-Hill confident of 
good show

DUBAI - UAE captain Mike Cox-Hill insists the lessons learnt from the Arabian Gulf’s 43-28 defeat to Kazakhstan last year will aid the country’s cause on Friday evening.

By Alex Leach

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Published: Sat 30 Apr 2011, 12:53 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 7:21 PM

The now-disbanded Arabian Gulf surged ahead in the first quarter of their opening 2010 Asian Five Nations (A5N) game on the road, only for the boot of impressive fullback Maxim Lifontov and hat-trick hero Anton ‘The Horse’ Rudoy to ultimately turn the tide in the hosts’ favour.

However, with some of the players and management from that frustrating day now representing the national team here, Cox-Hill believes the selected XV this weekend shall be better prepared for what is in store at Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Sports City.

“We learnt a lot. We were 14-0 up after 20 minutes in Almaty and we surprised ourselves with the position we’d got into at that stage,” recalled the lock forward, 35, who pinpointed the aforementioned duo as pivotal to Kazakhstan’s turnaround in fortunes.

“Now, we know how they got back into the game – they went to their ‘go to players’; they’ve got a very good open-side flanker (Rudoy) and their 15 (Lifontov) kept them in the match due to the number of penalties we gave away.

“This year, as and when we get ourselves into a solid position and they look to employ their tactical game plan, we know how to react to that; we know where their ‘go to men’ are and what brought them back into the game with the style of play that they played.

“We’ll be able to negate that by employing the defensive structure to go along with that approach that they could take.”

It won’t all be about keeping the second best team in Asia away from their own try line though as Cox-Hill and his team-mates go in search of an inaugural victory for the UAE from a momentous occasion.

The UAE drew 13-13 with Sri Lanka in Colombo last Saturday in their initial A5N outing and they’re now looking to follow that up with a timely win in a first-ever competitive fixture on home soil.

“We’ll certainly be looking to build on last weekend and the objective now is to beat Kazakhstan,” the general manager at the British Safety Council enthused.

“We’re quietly confident. We’ve got a draw, we’re above Kazakhstan in the table and – while they’ll certainly be looking to come and put us under pressure in Abu Dhabi – we’re all set. We’ll look to have a good, running game of rugby this weekend.”

A sporting slice of history then is in the offing and it seems coach Bruce Birtwistle’s side will emerge from the two dressing rooms eager to make their mark on it, with Cox-Hill adding: “It’s a significant achievement for the UAE to be playing in the Top Five and – with it being the first Test match for the UAE on home soil – it will just add a little more fire to that ever-increasing fire that we have anyway. It will definitely bring out the best in all of the players.”

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