Monday, December 1, 2014

RWC 2015: Assessing Uruguay's Chances a Year Out

Photo: Rugby News
After a long wait of twelve years Uruguay is to again play in a Rugby World Cup. The number two ranked South American rugby nation will compete in a Rugby World Cup for the third time and give the tournament an impressive Americas representation of one team per pool. With 20% of the participants of Rugby World Cup 2015 being from the Americas the case for Argentina to be allocated hosting rights to Rugby World Cup 2015 gains further ground. With England and Wales hosting Rugby World Cup 2015 Europe will maintain its status of hosting a World Cup every eight years with the U.K. having been notably involved in hosting on every ocassion. 

Path to Rugby World Cup 2015
Uruguay claimed the twentieth and final vacancy at Rugby World Cup 2015 by defeating Russia on aggregate .It saw the world's largest country miss out on playing in a second Rugby World Cup after the Russian Bears had left a lasting impression in New Zealand.

Uruguay's qualification was complicated due to the South American zone winner not being given direct qualification to the World Cup. Indeed, South America is the only region defined by World Rugby whose regional winner must subsequently play against intercontinental opposition.

Uruguay went through the South American regional qualification without being defeated .Los Teros faced Brazil and Chile after earlier teams including Colombia, Peru, Venezuela and Paraguay had all been eliminated. Contested in Temuco, Chile in April and May of 2013 Uruguay advanced as South America 1 to meet the runner-up of North American qualification.

With Canada having overpowered the USA by scorelines of 27-9 and 13-11 Uruguay had a chance at qualifying for Rugby World Cup 2015 as Americas 2. It would require winning, on aggregate, against the Tier 2 USA Eagles. The tough assignment saw Uruguay starting well in competing to a 27-27 draw in Montevideo but a strong second half performance from the North Americans in Atlanta saw the U.S. winning 32-13.

The U.S qualified for Pool B leaving Uruguay with the possibility of qualifying as the Play-Off Winner in Pool A. The South Americans overcame Hong Kong 28-3 in August 2014 to advance to face Russia in the home-and-away final. The Europeans won 22-21 in the North Asian city of Krasnoyarsk while Uruguay won 36-27 in Montevideo to secure qualification.

Uruguay in Rugby World Cups
Uruguay was not invited to competeat Rugby World Cup 1987 and not involved in the qualification process for Rugby World Cup 1991. The South Americans first campaign was in the years leading up to 1995 when Uruguay defeated Chile and Paraguay but was eliminated by Argentina who advanced to face the USA and subsequently secure qualification.

Los Teros overcame Chile and Paraguay in 1998 to advance to the quadrangular Americas final against Argentina, Canada and the USA. Despite being winless Uruguay wnt on to play in repecharge and with aggregate wins of 79-33 v Portugal and 36-24 v Morocco Uruguay secured qualification for a first ever Rugby World Cup.

Uruguay made it back-to-back appearances with direct qualification for Rugby World Cup 2003. Los Teros impressed by qualifying as Americas 2 after finishing higher than the USA. Uruguay was not, however, able to kick-on and missed out on qualifying for Rugby World Cups 2007 and 2011. This was the case despite Uruguay having won matches at both Rugby World Cups 1999 and 2003. The teams that qualified in place of Uruguay for 2007 and 2011 were winless.

At Rugby World Cup 1999 Uruguay opened with a 27-15 win over Spain but was overpowered by Tier One oppostion in losing 33-12 against the pool host nation Scotland and 39-3 against South Africa. A complicated match schedule saw Uruguay facing South Africa and Samoa with just a three day turn-around in 2003 and the South Americans lost by scorelines of 72-6 and 60-13.

After a thirteen day rest Uruguay responded by defeating Georgia 24-12 only to then face England after three days recovery and lose 111-13. Scoring for Uruguay that day was Pablo Lemoine who is the current coach and was involved in the Rugby World Cup 2011 qualification camapign.

Matches Won
Matches Lost
Did Not Compete
Did Not Compete
Did Not Qualify
Scotland, South Africa
Third in Pool
South Africa, Samoa, England
Fourth in Pool
Did Not Qualify
Did Not Qualify

Matches in England 2015
Uruguay's qualification for Rugby World Cup 2015 saw the South Americans entering Pool A, or the Pool of Death. Involved are previous champions Australia and England in addition to 2011 Semi Finalist Wales and 2007 Quarter Finalist Fiji. The extremely demanding set of matches is partially faciliated by a friendlier schedule than was the case in Australia 2003.

Uruguay is to face England and also face Wales on Welsh soil. It will, however, not play in London. Los Teros are to play in England's second and third largest cities in matches against England and Australia and face Fiji in Milton Keynes. Uruguay is also to be the only competitor in England and Wales 2015 that did not compete in New Zealand 2011.

September 20
Wales v Uruguay
September 27
Australia v Uruguay
October 06
Fiji  v Uruguay
Milton Keynes
October 10
England v Uruguay

Uruguay's Rugby World Cup 2015 debut will be at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff against sub-host Wales. It is to be the first ever test match between the countries and with Wales having defeated Fiji, France, Italy, Scotland and South Africa in 2014 the Western-British team will be heavy favorites.

Similar to Wales, Uruguay's pool match against Australia will be a first. Since Rugby World Cup 2011 Australia has changed head coach twice and, a year out from the World Cup, the team is far from living up to its reputation. Australia lost against Argentina, England, Ireland, New Zealand and South Africa in 2014 making the current Wallaby team one of the weakest in the professional era. Uruguay will, nonetheless, be facing a steep uphill battle. 

Uruguay and Fiji have met on two previous ocassions with the Pacific Islanders winning 39-24 in  L'Aquila, Italy in 1999 and 24-3 in Montevideo in 2003. The match in Milton Keynes is, nonetheless, to be Uruguay's only match which could be described as being winnable. Los Teros will be certain to approach the match as such with it being treated as the Rugby World Cup final. It will take-place sufficient time after the match v Australia but not too soon before playing against England.

A three day recovery period between facing Fiji and England would be likely be described as insanity by any international rugby player to have played against both nations. Uruguay will, however, have the unfortunate task of doing this in Rugby World Cup 2015. The South Americans will be interested in finishing the pool matches on a high but will not have access to all players due to the lack of rest days following the test against Fiji.

The one previous test match between England and Uruguay took place during Rugby World Cup 2003. Montevideo did, nonetheless, play host to a non-capped match between the CONSUR XV and England in 2013. England will be overwhelming favorites with Uruguay looking to score points and concede far fewer than in 2003.  

Ideal Rugby World Cup 2015 Squad
Rodrigo Capó Ortega is a household name in French rugby. The veteran Castres Olympique second-rower has won the Top 14 and been named in the competition's Dream Team. He is, however, the only Tero involved in the elite level as a professional player. Uruguay does, nonetheless, have other valuable players  such as Agustín Ormaechea who plays for Mont de Marsan in the Pro d2.

Tighthead prio Mario Sagario is the third and final player involved in a fully professional competition though there are others playing abroad in lower level competitions. Of note is Felipe Berchesi who has formed an impressive halves combination with Ormaechea. Both second-rower Franco Lamanna and loosehead prop Alejo Corral also play their rugby outside of Uruguay.

Forwards (16): Carlos Arboleya, Nicolás Klappenbach, Arturo Avalo, Alejo Corral, Oscar Dúran, Rodolfo de Mula, Mario Sagario, Franco Lamanna, Cristofer Soares de Lima, Rodrigo Capó Ortega, Mathias Palomeque, Santiago Vilaseca, Juan de Freitas, Juan Manuel Gaminara, Diego Magno, Alejandro Nieto,

Backs (14): Alejo Durán, Agustín Ormaechea, Guillermo Lijtenstein, Felipe Berchesi, Rodrigo Silva, Juan de Freitas, Andres Vilaseca, Joaquín Prada, Alberto Román, Federico Favaro, Santiago Gilbernau, Leandro Leivas, Jerónimo Etcheverry, Gastón Mieres

Zero wins, four losses. 

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