Following Namibia's victory in the 2014 African Cup this past weekend nineteen of the twenty spots at Rugby World Cup 2015 have been taken. The last remaining participant will be determined via repecharge with one of Hong Kong, Russia, Uruguay and Zimbabwe qualifying as the Play-Off Winner. The winners of Uruguay v Hong Kong and Russia v Zimbabwe will dispute the Final to determine who joins Australia, England, Fiji and Wales in Pool A. Argentina 2023 caught up with 33 time capped Uruguay back-rower Diego Magno to get an inside look at what awaits Los Teros and to better understand the state of the team and union.
After strong starts Uruguay was unable to win Rugby World Cup Qualifiers against the USA. How can Uruguay improve?
Without question the matches against the United States were very important for us, for a number of reasons, including the performance obtained without doubt. But before it started we knew that there were two paths to get to the World Cup - a short road and one slightly longer. This is why we continue working with the same seriousness that we did against the USA earlier this year and we believe that the path we are on is the correct way to reach the play-offs that we have in the coming months.
An interesting method is the system de viaticados, allowing leading players to focus on rugby full time. What is your opinion on this?
Yes, without doubt it is important to us. I have read works in some places which highlight ways for Uruguay to be among the top 20 teams in the world, and Uruguay stood out as the only amateur team.
The URU is doing a great job and this system is part of it and it shows that they are putting their resources into the team and into the players. Together with a group of players and some of the staff I have been looking at it for a while, because we believe that it is necessary for us to have a bonus that is demanded by top teams. Luckily we were able to secure it and we are already implementing it.
How important has the Estadio Charrúa's facilities been to the development of Los Teros?
Very important. I do not like making comparisons with other processes and realities, but certainly for our players and staff it is quite another thing to work under these conditions. The players have everything in the one place and need not incur extra large expenses while for the staff there is another kind of control, another manner of giving attention to the players.
Qualification for Rugby World Cup 2011 was overshadowed by problems leading to players missing matches. How different are things now than in 2010?
Yes, it is true that there were problems, but it is something that escapes us players. I think that one of the most interesting things that Los Teros have today is precisely the group, being amateurs within a test team is uncommon, playing with a passion, for the love of the shirt. I am sure that this, coupled with the serious work that is being done is going to help the players that were in the previous qualification see that it would be important to participate because here there is no other interest to bring Uruguayan rugby to the World Cup once again.
Will Uruguay have access to all European based players to face Hong Kong?
I have been talking to the Directors of the URU and with the players that I have a stronger relationship with and have found out that the truth is that I think we are all going to be playing. All of the players want to be there. As I mentioned earlier, seriousness, work and the group make them want to play for the test team.
Hong Kong is a much different prospect than the USA. How is preparation going for the players?
We know that Hong Kong is not the United States, but as is known to us, we have the greatest respect. Hong Kong is a good team, that plays with great speed and has many high points. For example we know that they have many good Sevens players. We will prepare the same way or better than we did for the previous round. To us there is nothing left, so we cannot afford to underestimate the opponent.
Hong Kong finished second to Japan in the Asian Five Nations. Have you seen the videos and what do you expect?
Yes we have seen videos. For now nothing is concrete except for watching in general. They are a good team, they have some good aspects and some not so good, like us. We are trying to study them as much as possible to be able to know full well what they could deploy.
The winner of Uruguay v Hong Kong will face the winner of Russia v Zimbabwe. Would you prefer to face one over the other?
I honestly think it is the same. I don't know Zimbabwe so well but I do know Russia. If Zimbabwe were to win against Russia it means they are of a higher level and so for us it would be a very tough match. In any event we are focused on Hong Kong rather than what might happen on the other side of the world.
If Uruguay defeat Hong Kong and Russia / Zimbabwe Los Teros would qualify for Pool A and face England, Australia, Wales and Fiji. A very difficult pool but a dream come true?
Without question. Taking Uruguay to the World Cup is, for us, a dream that began long ago. Personally I have been in the senior test team since 2008. I was emotional to miss out in Romania in 2010 and I suffered greatly. The day we got back we got to work with the objective of reversing the situation in four years time. With 20 minutes remaining against the United States we were close and we did not give up. As such the chances that lay ahead of us will not be missed.
Lastly should Argentina host Rugby World Cup 2023?
It would be very good. I don't believe that I could go as a player, but it would be incredible to go as part of the staff or at least with my friends. Hopefully it can happen.
Diego Magno is an international rugby player for Uruguay. He can be followed on twitter @dmagno89