While Chile’s squad are strangers to the Rugby World Cup, head coach Pablo Lemoine’s relationship with the tournament is steeped in history.
The Uruguayan appeared in two Rugby World Cups for his native country, in 1999 and 2003, making seven appearances across the tournaments.
The tight-head started Los Teros’ first-ever Rugby World Cup match against Spain in 1999 before exiting the game’s biggest stage with a try in a record 111-13 defeat to eventual champions England in Australia four years later.
The naming of Lemoine as Los Teros head coach in 2012 came together with a stated objective of seeing Uruguay qualify for RWC 2015, with the side having missed out on the previous two tournaments.
And amidst emotional scenes in the capital of Montevideo that goal was achieved, Uruguay edging out Russia after the most dramatic of repechages.
What Lemoine achieved with Uruguay was extraordinary but his achievement in leading Chile to their first Rugby World Cup is perhaps even more impressive.
Lemoine, 47, became head coach of Los Condores in August 2018 and, under him, they have climbed to their highest ever position in the World Rugby Men’s Rankings powered by Capgemini, earning respect as one of the world’ emerging rugby nations.
Here we take a look at how they previously fared in Rugby World Cup qualifying and the route they took to claim the Americas 2 ticket to Rugby World Cup 2023.
As Americas 2, Chile will line up in Pool D at RWC 2023 alongside England, Argentina, Japan and Samoa.
Rugby World Cup qualification breakdown:
1987 – Did not participate
1991 – Did not participate
1995 – Chile lost all three of their South American Championship games to Paraguay (25-24), Uruguay (14-6) and Argentina (70-7)
1999 – Chile began their campaign with wins over Trinidad & Tobago (35-6) and Bermuda (65-8). A 54-6 win over Paraguay then followed in the next stage but a 20-14 loss to Uruguay ended their interest in the competition.
2003 – Chile beat Brazil (46-6) and Paraguay (57-5) to join Canada, Uruguay and USA in the final qualification stage where two places were available. Chile beat Uruguay (10-6) but failed to win another game
2007 – Chile again beat Paraguay (38-22) and Brazil (57-13) to reach the final round but missed out after defeats by Argentina (60-13) and Uruguay (43-15)
2011 – Chile beat Brazil (79-3) but defeat by Uruguay (46-9) ended their hopes of qualification
2015 – Chile again beat Brazil (38-22) but lost to Uruguay (23-9)
2019 – Chile’s dream was again ended by Uruguay (27-11) after they had beaten Brazil (15-10) and Paraguay (66-7)
The road to RWC 2023
Chile were due to face Colombia in the first stage of the South American element of qualification, but they were awarded the victory after the game was cancelled due to COVID-19 cases in the Los Tucanes’ squad.
Chile took their place alongside Brazil and Uruguay in a round robin competition needing a top two finish to remain in contention. They beat Brazil 23-13 but lost 15-10 to Uruguay despite leading at half-time.
This pitted Chile against Canada, the losers of the Americas 1 play-off. Canada won the first leg 22-21 after Robbie Povey’s last-gasp penalty, but Chile triumphed 34-15 a week later thanks to 23 points by Santiago Videla thus ending Canada’s ever-present record at the Rugby World Cup.
So it was Chile who advanced to the Americas 2 play-off, and a two-legged encounter against the USA.
Chile warmed up for their biggest test in history with a 45-5 defeat to Scotland A, watched by a crowd of 8,213.
Two weeks later, Los Condores returned to Estadio Santa Laura Universidad SEK in Santiago to take on the Eagles and were beaten 22-21.
With just one point between the sides, Los Condores had every reason to believe their dream was not over and so it proved, a 31-29 victory in the return match in Glendale, Colorado sending them through.