Qualifying process set for thrilling start
A record crowd for a Rugby match in Mexico is expected when the hosts entertain Jamaica in the opening qualification match for Rugby World Cup 2015 on Saturday.
Over 2,000 fans from a thriving local Rugby community will pack into the La Ibero Stadium in Santa Fe, Mexico City, to see a match that will be about bragging rights within the NACRA Region and will ignite a qualification process that will see 80 countries vying across 184 matches for eight places at Rugby's showcase event.
The Webb Ellis Cup will also be on display, while Rugby World Cup 2003 winner and England Rugby 2015 ambassador Lawrence Dallaglio will accompany IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset to the match which will be officiated by Rugby World Cup 2011 Final referee Craig Joubert.
For the Federación Mexicana de Rugby, hosting such an historic event is not just about the honour of the occasion, but an opportunity with heightened media and public interest to really put Rugby on the map in Mexico.
"We are excited about the challenge that awaits. We know that this is a big occasion, a big honour to be hosting the opening RWC 2015 qualifier, but we must not lose focus of the need to progress in the NACRA Championship," said Mexico captain Juan Pablo Andrade at a busy media conference at the Mexico National Committee Centre.
"We have prepared well and are looking forward to being able to display Rugby, its values and ethos to a wider audience in Mexico, which is really exciting for the development of our Union and attracting more players to the sport."
With the match taking place at an altitude of 2,500 metres, Jamaica can expect a tough aerobic encounter, but the team go into the fixture in confident mood after a solid and successful block of training.
Jamaica captain Carlyle Burger said: "We do not know all that much about Mexico as we have not seen footage of them playing. What we do know is that we are well prepared, motivated, ready and are expecting a very physical, very competitive match. I am sure that the fans will enjoy it."
"Rugby in Jamaica has the ability to take off. We have seen the positive effects of Olympic inclusion which is benefitting our Fifteens programme also. There is so much track and field talent, so many athletes who would be great for Rugby."
It is the second time in a row that the NACRA Region has kicked off the Rugby World Cup qualification process and Lapasset praised Rugby in a region that is showing great potential on and off the field.
"It is exciting for the IRB and NACRA that the qualification process is kicking off here in Mexico. This country represents the great potential within a number of Unions in a region that continues to make strides in terms of development and participation numbers," said Lapasset.
"I am sure that it will be an exciting match played in front of a record crowd and I would like to wish both teams good luck."
The Federación Mexicana de Rugby will be streaming the match live at www.justin.tv/fmru. Kick-off is 15:30 local time (16:30 Kingston; 17:30 New York; 21:30 Dublin and London; 22:30 Madrid and Paris, 09:30 Sydney, 11:30 Auckland).
MEXICO: 1 Patrick Jouan 2 Carlos Prieto 3 Max Douek 4 Gonzalo Taddei 5 Erik Castillo 6 Luis Rosete 7 Fernando Herrejon 8 Simon Pierre 9 Juan Pablo Andrade (captain) 10 Miguel Carner 11 Samuel Gythu Nyaga 12 Pablo Pagano 13 Christian Henning 14 Alejandro Chavez 15 Pascal Nadaud.
Replacements: 16 Juan Manuel Ceja Matamoros 17 Luis Hernandez Cruz 18 Roberto Calderon 19 Pablo Pinedo 20 Bruno Rodriguez 21 Carlos Susarrey 22 Gerardo Gil Hernandez.
JAMAICA: 1 Romaine Campbell 2 Robert Johnson 3 Sandino Hastings 4 Kemar Catwell 5 Edgar Herbine 6 Omar Jones 7 Chrisdan Grayson 8 Carlyle Burger (captain) 9 Andrew Hylton 10 Nicholas Pusey 11 Ronaldo Wade 12 Tyrone Rowe 13 Donald Walters 14 Ryan Grant 15 Joseph Shae.
Replacements: 16 Deryon Balfoure 17 Rahmone Goldbourne 18 Allessandro Allen 19 Hubert Thomas 20 Mohenjo Thompson 21 Kenneth Walker 22 Claude Yen.
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)