DUBAI // Wayne Marsters, the caretaker UAE coach, will attempt to staunch the national team's miserable run of form and fortune by handing the teenaged Quihen Marais the pivotal fly-half berth for tonight's meeting with Brazil.
The Al Ain Amblers centre is highly valued by his coach, who regards him as one of the brightest prospects in the game here.
However, Marsters would not have wanted to deploy him in the vital No 10 position in just his second match in international rugby.
Marais is only 18, and was on a drip in hospital when illness struck two weeks ago, forcing him to miss the Dubai Rugby Sevens at the start of this month.
His performance was one of the few redeeming features in the heavy defeat to Hong Kong in the opening match of the week-long Emirates Cup of Nations on Saturday.
"We were really pleased with how Quihen did [in his debut against Hong Kong]," Marsters said.
"He has a good defensive and kicking game, and we are confident he can do a good job at No 10."
Marais, who played at outside-centre against Hong Kong, is at least the fourth choice fly-half, which is a sign of just how desperately stretched the national team's resources are at present.
Murray Strang, the nominal first choice, who is still yet to make his XVs debut for the UAE, is nursing a hamstring strain he sustained in the Sevens.
Tim Fletcher, his likely understudy, is faced with the same problem, while Imad Reyal, who was handed the No 10 shirt in an emergency on Saturday, is starting a three-week suspension for a dangerous tackle.
Elsewhere, Stuart Quinn, the scrum-half, has been forced out of the competition by the injury he sustained in the warm up before the Hong Kong loss, while Sean Hurley misses out this evening with an ankle injury.
Renier Els, the UAE captain, acknowledged the side had a problematic build up to this new competition, but said that should not have excused their shoddy defensive performance in the opener.
"The boys now know what international rugby is about, so we can just look forward," the Abu Dhabi Harlequins flanker said.
"It was difficult in that we weren't able to train together as a squad, but that should not be an excuse for missed tackles and that sort of thing."
The UAE are not the only ones having to juggle their resources, however.
This evening's opponents, Brazil, will have to nurse their 26-man tour party through three games in sevens days.
The South Americans lost out to a late score in their opening game against Kenya, and Lucas Duque, the fly-half, acknowledged that victories will not be a given.
"We know it gets harder with each game, so either we put our maximum into each game or we will lose them all," he said.
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