Fast-improving Uruguay generate excitement, but struggle with the set-piece

As part of a series looking at Tier 2 teams competing at RWC 2019, a guide to the strengths and weaknesses of Uruguay.

TOKYO, 24 Sep - Analysis of Uruguay, who are in Pool D with Wales, Australia, Fiji and Georgia. They play Fiji in their opening game of Rugby World Cup 2019 in Tokyo on Wednesday


  • They won five games in a row in 2019. They beat the USA by seven points a year after losing to them by 42.
  • They are the only team to have the largest source of their tries from turnovers. They are an exciting team to watch


Five Uruguayans rank in the top 20 most-capped international players since the last World Cup. They are led by Mateo Sanguinetti with 45 caps. Not only are they playing lots of rugby, they are winning lots of rugby games as well. Between the 2011 and 2015 Rugby World Cups Uruguay won 37 per cent of their games, since the 2015 World Cup they have won 65 per cent. They have just six players in their squad aged 30 or older but they are the 11th most experienced team at the tournament, ahead of Scotland and France.

Juan Manuel Cat might be the find of this tournament. He glides through defences and has an excellent kicking game. He is just 23 years old but he bosses the South American’s backline. Uruguay play in a similar way to the All Blacks. They have a fly-half who they use most of the time but they also use their full-back as a back-up receiver. Gaston Mieres could fill that role. That allows Uruguay to attack in either direction and threaten defences.


Historically Uruguay's trump card may have been upfront in the forwards but the Los Teros scrum is currently not one of their main strengths. Against Namibia in the Nations Cup in June, they found a burst of inspiration and pushed the Africans off the ball three times in their second-half comeback. For much of the game, they were going backwards in the set piece. 

Like the scrum the Uruguay lineout will come under pressure. In the same match against Namibia, they would have won the game if they won their own lineout in the dying moments. Instead Namibia got in position to kick a penalty and won 30-28 in one of the most entertaining games of 2019. 

How to impress your friends

"If I were Georgia I would be very wary of the threat Uruguay pose. Their two-playmaker approach will test the Georgian backs and the Georgians will dominate the set-piece."   

Vital statistics (all test matches 2018) 

World ranking: 19th

Average minutes of possession per game: 17m 5s (10th) 

Scrum success: 84% (18th)

Lineout success: 73% (20th)

Goal-kicking success: 77% (12th)

Average tries scored: 3.5 (10th)

Average tries conceded: 4.0 (19th)

Seconds per pass/ruck/kick: 8.0 (15th)/11.9(14th)/60.3 (17th)

Passes per Ruck: 1.5 (14th)

 RNS sdg/djk/ajr