LOVE OF THE GAME: All but four of Uruguay's squad are amateurs. 'It's going to be a great experience' says yougest player German Kessler
CARDIFF, Sept 17 - Uruguay last fielded a squad at the Rugby World Cup in 2003, when their three defeats included a 111-13 thrashing by England, their opponents in their final pool game this year.
Among the debutants in a young squad are two students who, two years ago, only dreamed of being on the national team, let alone playing at a World Cup.
Germán Kessler, the youngest player in a squad short on experience, said, "I’ve been in the team one year, nearly two. I didn’t expect this, to be in the national team so soon, and even less to be in the World Cup. I was a little afraid of being the youngest.”
But he was also quick to show his enthusiasm ahead of Uruguay’s opening game against Wales at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on Sunday.
DEBUT IN APRIL
“I love this atmosphere, where you breathe rugby, and being here doing what I like to do. It’s going to be a great experience, although we also know it’s going to be tough.”
Uruguay face Wales, Australia, Fiji and England in Pool A.
The prospect of injury is not a worry for Kessler, who plays for Los Cuervos in Uruguayan club rugby. “We like getting hit, we have fun.”
Kessler’s track record, though short, is impressive. He scored a try on his debut for the national team against Paraguay on 11 April, and he has made four starts in 11 Test appearances. While his preferred position is a hooker, he can also be deployed as a prop.
His teammate and contemporary, fly-half Manuel Blengio, also 21, shares his sentiment. The excitement and anxiety eclipse any doubts about the team’s condition going into the tournament.
“It’s a mixture of everything, nerves, anxiety and we’re just anxious to play. It’s every athlete’s dream to compete in a big sporting event like this one. We’re not used to playing in front of such big crowds and it’s a great opportunity for us.”
THREE PLAY IN FRANCE
Blengio made his Test debut this year against Paraguay in April and contributed 15 points to Uruguay’s 48-9 victory over Brazil in the same month. He has since made eight other Test appearances, and has played in four different positions as a back. He plays for Old Christians.
Uruguay have only four professional players in the team. Agustín Ormaechea, Felipe Berchesi and Mario Sagario play for French clubs Stade Montois, Carcassonne and Massy respectively, and Gastón Mieres plays in Italy for Valpolicella.
RNS ac/ bo/