After the mandatory celebration that went well into the small hours of Sunday morning, the Uruguayan Teros will take a very short break before setting themselves new goals ahead of their third appearance at the Rugby World Cup in England next year.
Uruguay played seven matches on the road to England 2015: they beat Brazil and Chile to claim the South American place and earn the right to play against the loser of Canada v USA.
After two solid performances from Uruguay, including a draw in Montevideo, the Eagles took their place in Pool B with a 32-13 win in Atlanta. Hong Kong came to Montevideo in the first stage of the RWC 2015 Repechage and were duly dispatched 28-3 before the defining two–match series against Russia.
Their 57-49 aggregate win in front of more than 14,000 delighted fans was confirmation that the High Performance Plan put into place four years ago was working as intended.
January 2013 was a significant milestone in that journey, as the Uruguayan Rugby Union took possession of the Charrúa Stadium, a soccer ground in the leafy suburbs of Montevideo. Players from the Under 16 age group and the Sevens and women’s squads have since taken advantage of the facilities and coaching on offer.
“I can only thank this group of players that trusted what we were telling them,” says Pablo Lemoine, the former Tero, who has coached the team to a new level. “They worked hard last year, until 20 December and were back at the Charrúa Centre on 6 January. No-one flinched from the challenge and they all contributed.
“What makes me more satisfied is that we will be in Tier Two for the following four years. While we have to think about the World Cup we must focus on the future as well.”
Sole World Cup survivor
Lemoine’s side contains an interesting blend of experience and youth. Alejo Corral, at 32, has travelled countless times across the River Plate. Argentine-born, he spent all his schooling days in Uruguay. “After losing against Romania in 2010 (and missing RWC 2011) our goal was to qualify for the World Cup in England,” he said after a tireless performance against Russia.
The only veteran of a World Cup campaign is Rodrigo Capó Ortega, the stellar lock from Castres, in France. He hadn’t played for Uruguay since 2009 yet for the series against Russia was back wearing national colours. “I still can’t believe this; I am a very fortunate guy,” he said. “This is very important for the players, the coaching staff and the management who have worked very hard in the last four years. For Uruguay to have qualified to the World Cup is great.”
The game in Uruguay has some 7,000 registered players and that number is expected to increase in the near future on the back Los Teros’ success. As Uruguay Rugby Union President Sebastián Piñeyrúa says, “the whole of Uruguay was backing the team; different sports people and federations – even national president José Mujica were with us – so it all changes from now. The game is getting more popular; we must ensure that we are prepared for what is coming.”
Outside centre Paco Ramón is overjoyed at what the future holds. “England, Wales and Australia…we have the toughest pool. All the games will be a great experience. We should try to beat Fiji but they, like every team at the World Cup, are very strong.”