Friday, July 16, 2010

Famous Faces Abroad – Uruguay Players in Europe

Clearly the best player Uruguay has ever produced, Rodrigo Capó Ortega, will play his ninth consecutive season for French Top 14 club Castres Olympique. Capó Ortega arrived at the club in 2002 and is signed until 2013. Castres use him mainly as a second-rower but he has also played in the back-row where he has usually played for Uruguay.

Capó Ortega made his international debut for los Teros vs Chile in 2000 and has played 31 international tests for Los Teros. He was not part of the 2010 South American internationals vs Argentina, Brazil, Chile or Paraguay as an experimental squad was prefered. He was also not picked for the 2010 Churchill Cup for the same reason, to allow Uruguay to prepare for the Rugby World Cup 2011 Play-Off semi-final match vs Kazakhstan. Aside from this he has been a permanent member of the national team.

Despite being in the national team for 10 years, Capó Ortega has only played 31 tests for Los Teros. This is a reflection of the lack of test rugby that Uruguay get to play. Uruguay are an ignored country who do not receive home international matches in June or tours to Europe in November. Preperation for international matches is very difficult for Uruguay for this reason.

Capó Ortega has scored 5 tries for Uruguay, including a stunning try which was the country´s first at Rugby World Cup 2003 vs Samoa. He played in all the matches at Rugby World Cup 2003 and was very proud when his country defeated Georgia. Perhaps, the most famous moment of his from Rugby World Cup 2003 was his tackle on his opposite number - England´s Lawrence Dallaglio. Before missing out on the 2010 test matches he had been Uruguay´s captain. It is hard to imagine a Rugby World Cup without Rodrigo Capó Ortega because he is such a superb player. It happened in 2007 with Portugal qualifying after defeating Los Teros.

Teros veteran backrower, Nicolas Brignoni will be playing for Union Sportive Oyonnax Rugby, or simply Oyonnax in the pro d2 after previously having played for L'Aquila in Italy, from 2002-2006, and Montauban in 2006-2007. He has played for Oyonnax since 2007. Brignoni is a true rugby veteran. He played for Uruguay in both Rugby World Cup 1999 and 2003. His test debut was in 1998 vs Argentina and he has represented Los Teros amazingly in 40 tests. He scored Uruguay's best try of Rugby World Cup 2003 vs Georgia. His most recent test appearance was in the two losses against the USA in November 2009.

Another veteran of Los Teros, Juan Carlos Bado will be playing his eighth year of professional rugby in France. Bado arrived in France in 2003 to play Top 14 rugby for Stade Français Paris before moving to Montauban in 2005 and then to play in the pro d2 for Oyonnax in 2007. Now he is playing for Valence d'Agen in the Federale 1. Bado is a true rugby veteran. He is currently 37 years old and made his debut for Uruguay an amazing 17 years ago, making him more of a test veteran than Argentina´s Mario Ledesma. Bado made his test debut vs Paraguay in Asunción on October the 2nd, 1993. Uruguay won the match 67-03. The captain of that match, Diego Ormaechea, was the oldest player at Rugby World Cup 1999 and scored a try vs Spain.

Bado is a second-rower who is regarded as one of Uruguay´s finest players. He, however, has contributed in a very negative manner to the history of rugby in Uruguay. His last test appearance was vs Portugal in Montevideo in 2007. It was a match that Uruguay won 18-12 but Bado was red carded for foul play early in the first half. This meant Los Teros had to play without one player for the vast majority of the match. Portugal had won the first match in Lisbon 12-05 and thus qualified for France 2007 by one point on aggregate. Had Bado not been sent off it is fair to asume that Uruguay would have scored more points and thus qualified for France 2007. Bado, to his credit, played in all of Uruguay´s matches at both Rugby World Cup 1999 and 2003. He has played 52 tests for Uruguay and is included in Uruguay´s squad to play Kazakhstan this Saturday. Should Uruguay win they will go on to play the winner of Romania vs Tunisia home and away to determine the 20th and last team to compete at New Zealand 2011. Uruguay´s most capped player, Rodrigo Sanchez, played 56 test matches. If Uruguay can qualify for Rugby World Cup 2011 Bado will overtake him as the most capped Uruguayan of all time.

Bado will not be the only player from Uruguay playing in the Federale 1. He will be joined at Valence d'Agen by Teros prop, Pablo Lemoine who is also a player with a very decorated history. Lemoine has been playing professional rugby for longer than any other player from Uruguay. He has been in the professional seen for over a decade. he, together with Bado was a champion of France in 2004 - winning the championship with Stade Français. Quite remarkable to therefore think that Uruguay was unable to qualify for France 2007 and needs to perform very well to qualify for New Zealand 2011.

Lemoine´s first professional contract was in 1999-2000 in England for Bristol where he was team mates with Argentine and Canadian legends Agustin Pichot and Al Charron. After one season he then signed for Stade Français where he played for six years before heading to Montauban in 2006 and staying until 2008. He made his test debut for Los Teros vs Argentina in 1996 and has played 38 tests in his career including all of Uruguay´s matches at both Rugby World Cup´s 1999 and 2003. He was selected for Uruguay for last months Churchill Cup in the United States and is included in the team to play Kazakhstan this weekend.

Aside from Lemoine, the entire Teros squad that participated in June's Churchill Cup was made up of players based in Uruguay. Prop Sebastian Levaggi, for instance, made his test debut vs Italy in 2007 and played 3 tests for Los Teros from 2007-2008. He plays professionally in Italy for Venezia Mestre Rugby but was not selected for the Rugby World Cup qualifying matches of 2009 or this years international series. Levaggi will certainly be looking to get back into the team and should have a good chance of doing so. If Uruguay qualify for New Zealand 2011 he will need to have a good season to make the squad. Another example is Mario Sagrario who is also not involved in the Teros squad at all but is a professional playing in the pro d2 for US Dax.

South America clearly has a lot more to offer global rugby than meets the eye. It is not only Argentina who is exporting players to leading clubs around the world. Uruguay has players who have been to multiple Rugby World Cup´s and have won the Top 14. Should Argentina 2023 become a reality the spin-offs it would have for rugby in Uruguay are huge. The profile of the sport would, without question, benefit greatly. The entire region would benefit.

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