Why Uruguay should not be underestimated

Uruguay were expected to barely make an impression at Rugby World Cup 2019, but Los Teros could be the surprise package of Pool D.

TOKYO, 28 Sep - Uruguay were supposed to be the whipping boys of Pool D - after all, beyond South America, all but the most avid rugby fans would be hard-pressed to name a single member of Los Teros. Having failed to win a match at the tournament since 2003, it seemed fair to assume they would again be making up the numbers.

But in the past few days that has all changed. After kicking off their campaign with a stunning 30-27 victory over Fiji on Wednesday (watch the highlights below), Uruguay will believe they have every chance of winning two matches in a World Cup for the first time in their history when they take on Georgia on Sunday.

At the start of the tournament, the analysts at RugbyWorldCup.com revealed that Los Teros had the youngest, lightest and smallest squad on average across all 20 teams. These numbers appeared ominous as they lined up against the powerful Fijians – a team who had been heavily tipped to be one of the tournament's dark horses – with players including the vastly experienced Leone Nakarawa among their ranks.

But what Uruguay lacked in firepower, they made up for with sheer precision, producing one of the most clinical displays of the tournament. Fiji paid a heavy price for some lacklustre first-half defending. As Fiji coach John McKee bemoaned afterwards: "We made too many fundamental errors in the game and Uruguay capitalised on them. In the first half Uruguay capitalised on errors and scored three tries so we were then chasing the game and it put us under a lot of pressure."

While Fiji enjoyed considerably more possession and territory, the Uruguayans were utterly ruthless in the final 22. They threatened the Fijian try-line on only seven occasions over the course of the match but they more than made the most of their opportunities, scoring an average of 4.29 points every time they entered the Fijian 22. So far only the All Blacks have been more effective at converting territory into points, which should be cause for concern for a Georgian backline that shipped 43 points against Wales last Monday.

Not only that, but in Felipe Berchesi, Uruguay have one of the most deadly kickers of the tournament so far. By landing 15 points against Fiji – making him the joint-highest points scorer in a match at this World Cup, along with Owen Farrell, George Ford, Kotaro Matsushima and Julian Montoya – Berchesi almost single-handedly decided the contest. While Fiji's kickers folded under pressure, costing their team 11 points, the cool-headed Berchesi converted six of seven.  

If they continue in the same vein, Los Teros could end up being the surprise package of this World Cup.

RNS dc/pp