Chile and Uruguay aim to keep the dream alive
By Frankie Deges in Montevideo
Argentina need to beat Brazil to secure, once again, the CONSUR South American Championship in the first of two matches to be played on Saturday at the Charrúa Stadium, in the leafy outskirts of Montevideo. This tournament has been under Argentine domain since it was first played in 1951.
Yet, the match that will capture the imagination of what is expected to be a big crowd will be the second of the afternoon, when hosts Uruguay and Chile meet to decide who will await Canada or USA in the final element of the Americas qualification process for Rugby World Cup 2015.
On the strength of their performances in the South American Championship over the last week it is Uruguay entering the match in higher spirits. In the opening round they narrowly lost 29-18 to a young Argentine side and then beat Brazil 58-7 on Wednesday, dominating the set pieces with aplomb.
Chile had beaten Brazil at home in Temuco, the new venue for the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy 2013 later this month, by a convincing 38-22 but were then overwhelmed 85-10 in Montevideo by a young Pumas side featuring a number of players in Argentina’s squad for the IRB Junior World Championship 2013 in France.
So, with the wind and history on their backs, Uruguay will go into this vital match as favourites, although that is a tag no-one gladly accepts.
A world of difference
“We played the way we wanted against Brazil and did some good things against Argentina. Now against Chile we know it is a special game, one with a lot of history and they are better than what they showed,” insisted Los Teros’ number 8 Diego Magno.
“We hope to win, that is our first goal. We have a good game plan and will want to play to our strengths.”
Uruguay have graced the Rugby World Cup on two occasions and are now coached by one of the Los Teros’ stars of those 1999 and 2003 campaigns in Pablo Lemoine.
“We have secured this Charrúa Stadium for at least 10 years and it is now our home. It is a world of difference for these players,” admitted Lemoine.
“We are still far away from Rugby World Cup but some of our older players, who gave so much for the Uruguayan cause, deserve an opportunity to play in England 2015.”
His opponent in qualifying for the Rugby World Cups in 2003 and 2007 was former flanker and now Chile assistant coach Edmundo Olfos. He knows firsthand the strength of the Uruguayans yet believes that this match with RWC dreams at stake will be much closer than many expect.
“The loss against Argentina is something that we shouldn’t read into too much. It wasn’t good, but we fielded many reserves and looking at the video there were some positives in attack against an Argentine team that is far too good for all of us in the region,” said Olfos.
It will not be easy for Los Cóndores to bounce back from such a loss, “but we have managed to change our team’s mind-set and our focus is on Uruguay. They are a good side but if we can match them in the forwards, then we can be hopeful.”
Team captain Rodrigo Tobar still believes that the differences between the two teams are not that big. “In the past two years there was very little difference between both sides. We have got together as a team and put the loss against Argentina in the back of our heads.”
The winner of this match will face whoever loses the Americas 1 play-off between Canada and USA in August for a showdown to qualify for Rugby World Cup 2015 as Americas 2 and join South Africa, Samoa, Scotland and the Asia 1 qualifier in Pool B.
The dream will still be alive for the loser of that Americas 2 play-off as they will enter the Repechage, the stage at which Uruguay’s dreams have ended in the qualification process for the last two Rugby World Cups.