DUBAI // Wayne Marsters, the caretaker coach of the national team, insists the leading players in this country remain staunchly up for the fight, as a string of poor results and ill-fortune threatens to bring UAE rugby to its knees.
The UAE shipped more than 60 points for the fourth game in succession last night, as their maiden Emirates Cup of Nations campaign went from bad to worse against Brazil.
The travails on the field are hardly surprising given the bad luck off it, where injury and illness have combined to derail their challenge.
However, there is clearly some character in this side, according to Marsters.
Quihen Marais, the young prodigy from Al Ain, played a fine hand in his first start at fly-half
He only arrived at the ground 20 minutes before kick off after being bedridden with stomach cramp.
Jamie Clarke, the Abu Dhabi Harlequins flanker, had been on a drip in hospital between this game and the previous one, against Hong Kong on Saturday.
Dan Boatwright, the prop, had also missed a day of work due to food poisoning immediately after the Hong Kong defeat, yet still played the full 80 minutes here.
"There is some character in this team for sure," said Marsters, who has endured a torrid time since being instilled as the new UAE rugby manager recently. "We allowed Quihen to sleep at home in Al Ain, and he arrived about 20 minutes before kick off.
"He got changed and we sent him off with one of the medics to do his own warm up. I'm wondering where it is all going to stop."
The troubles were extended after kick off. Renier Els, the captain, sustained a knee injury, Greg Thompson was carried off on a stretcher after a sickening blow to the head, while Marais suffered a shoulder injury.
"I've injured my shoulder, but that is rugby, and you know what you get into when you run out," the teenaged fly-half said.
"From one to 15 [Brazil] were all athletes. Physically we are not quite there, but we will get there. UAE rugby will develop and we will get there."
Marsters said he had been buoyed by the response his players have shown in the face of such adversity this week.
"Given what has happened, you might have expected guys to have distanced themselves from the programme, but it has been quite the opposite," he said.
"There are guys who are in waiting who are really keen and have said, 'We can turn this around'. That is positive."