Following Wednesday’s Rugby World Cup 2019 pool draw in Kyoto, Sudamérica Rugby A Championship participants Uruguay, Chile, Brazil and Paraguay now have a clearer idea of the challenge ahead should they win this year’s title and continue on the road to Japan.
The winner of the region’s marquee event will meet the loser of the Americas 1 play-off between USA and Canada, which takes place home and away on 24 June and 1 July, later this year for the right to compete in Pool D alongside Australia, Wales, Georgia and Oceania 1 as the Americas 2 qualifier.
Should they come unstuck in that play-off, their RWC 2019 dream will not be over. However, they will have to negotiate the four-team round-robin repechage tournament that will decide the 20th and final qualifier to take their place in Pool B alongside defending champions New Zealand, South Africa, Italy and the Africa 1 qualifier.
ODDS STACKED IN LOS TEROS' FAVOUR
Once again Uruguay go into the latest edition of the Sudamérica Rugby A Championship as favourites, but even more so this year on the back of their encouraging third-place finish in the Americas Rugby Championship.
The scheduling has also been kind to Los Teros with their two hardest games on paper, against Chile and Brazil, played on home soil at the Estadio Charrúa in Montevideo. The two-time Rugby World Cup participants can also count upon their best overseas talent such as France-based duo, Felipe Berchesi and Agustín Ormaechea (main picture), and Uruguay’s first professional player Nicolás Freitas, who has been seconded to the Jaguares Super Rugby franchise.
“Our first goal is to win the Sudamerica Rugby A Championship and advance further in the qualifying process of Rugby World Cup,” said Los Teros head coach Esteban Meneses. “We also want to play better rugby and so, since the end of the Americas Rugby Championship, we have been working very hard on our fitness and trying to raise our skill level.”
Led by flanker Juan Manuel Gaminara, Uruguay start their campaign away to Paraguay, at the Estadio Héroes de Curupaytí in the capital city of Asunción. Paraguay have never beaten Los Teros in a test before, their best result a 9-9 draw in 1985, and were well-beaten, 60-15, last year.
Los Yacarés, who preserved their Sudamérica Rugby A Championship status towards the end of last year with a 39-27 win over second-tier champions Colombia, have a new coaching team headed up by former Argentina sevens coach Nahuel García.
As the lowest-ranked team in the competition and with only one game at home, Paraguay have their work cut out to avoid a repeat of last year’s bottom-place finish. However, captain Andrés Nasser say Los Yacares are determined to leave their mark on the tournament.
“We want to play a more competitive and dynamic style than in previous years and to be a worthy opponent and generate a sense of identity and belonging within the national team,” he said.
BRAZIL AFTER BRAGGING RIGHTS
In the last few seasons, Brazil have been challenging Chile to be considered as the third best team in the region behind Argentina and Uruguay and actually came out on top, 17-3, when the sides met in the Americas Rugby Championship in February. That win means Saturday's meeting in Santiago will give a further indication as to where the balance of power now lies between the two nations.
Now fully fit, veteran Lucas Duque returns for the Tupis at scrum-half, in a team that includes his brother Moisés, dynamic number eight Nick Smith and the gifted Sancery twins, Felipe and Daniel.
“Our main goal is, of course, to get a qualifying place for RWC 2019,” said coach Rodolfo Ambrosio. “We are focusing on our defensive systems and our fitness. We have a young yet experienced team that will be a force in attack. We’ve worked very hard to be ready,”
Chile’s chances of success have been boosted by the availability of two of their France-based stars, Biarritz prop José Ramón Araya and Bagneres centre Francisco de la Fuente, while the likes of Felipe Brangier, Ignacio Silva and Francisco Urroz return to 15s after appearing for Los Condores Sevens in the World Rugby Sevens Series qualifier in Hong Kong last month.