Uruguay beefs up for Fiji match

The Uruguay team appeared relaxed ahead of their match with Fiji. Photo: BBC

The Uruguay team appeared relaxed ahead of their match with Fiji. Photo: BBC

After suffering the biggest defeat so far of any team at the Rugby World Cup, Uruguay might be forgiven for feeling despondent.

But that is not how this group of largely of amateur players is recovering from the 65-3 drubbing inflicted upon them by Australia in Group A.

Facing Fiji on Wednesday morning (Tuesday UK time), the team is confident it has got a chance of winning.

“These are athletes,” Pablo Lemoine, Uruguay’s head coach says.

“We don’t go onto the field to lose, and Fiji is one game we think we can win.”

Uruguay struggled to stop Australia in their match in Group A.

Uruguay struggled to stop Australia in their match in Group A. Photo: BBC

It is the first time in 12 years that Uruguay qualified for the World Cup and Lemoine, a former Stade Francais prop, says it is a steep learning curve.

“The difference between us and some of the teams we play is just enormous, so losing by a big margin is normal.”

What is important for Lemoine is the progress the team has made in the past four years.

Coach Pablo Lemoine doesn't mind the losses, as long as the team is progressing

Coach Pablo Lemoine doesn’t mind the losses, as long as the team is progressing. Photo: BBC

He says the players, almost all of whom were very inexperienced when they were chosen, have come a long way.

Some of them gave up their jobs to be able to train regularly.

This kind of sacrifice and dedication has given the team a level of cohesion which some better funded teams do not have, he insists.

Uruguay’s number eight, Alejandro Nieto, embodies his coach’s sentiments.

The fact most of Uruguay's players are amateurs has made the team stronger, Lemoine says. Photo: AFP

The fact most of Uruguay’s players are amateurs has made the team stronger, Lemoine says. Photo: AFP

Nieto started playing rugby in school and joined a club at the age of 12.

He had to put his job as a financial consultant on hold to be able to dedicate more time to his team, which is called Los Teros (southern lapwings), after the birds which used to nest on the playing fields.

“We know we’re fighting against the odds, but we actually enjoy measuring ourselves against stronger teams to see at what level we really are,” he says.

21 year old German Kessler is the young Los Teros. Photo: BBC

21 year old German Kessler is the youngest Los Teros in the squad. Photo: BBC

“But within the team this makes us stronger, we don’t play for money or fame, we play because we like to play and that shows on the field.”

Commentators praised Los Teros for aiming to score a try in their match against Australia rather than just chasing points and kicking penalties.

Their failure to score a try so far at this year’s World Cup is cited by the players as their biggest regret.

At 21, hooker German Kessler is Uruguay’s youngest player.

He only took up rugby five years ago when he went along to a club with his older brother.

He has put his studies on hold to play for Los Teros.

For Kessler it is all about the future of the sport in his country.

“You’re not going to get rich playing rugby in Uruguay,” he laughs, “but I would like to see rugby evolve and more people to take up the sport”.

Los Teros players enjoy their beef sandwiches with the quality steak supplied from Uruguay. Photo: BBC

Los Teros players enjoy their beef sandwiches with the quality steak supplied from Uruguay. Photo: BBC

That is also key for Los Teros’s manager Santiago Slinger.

He says that the team’s presence at the World Cup has led to a surge in interest in the team and the sport back in Uruguay, a nation traditionally focussed on football.

One secret weapon Uruguay are hoping will give them an advantage over Fiji is their diet.

The team has brought its own beef from Uruguay, provided by the country’s National Meat Institute.

Skipper Nicolas Klappenbauch may have missed a tackle from Wallaby Drew Mitchell . . .

Hooker Nicolas Klappenbach may have missed a tackle from Wallaby Drew Mitchell . . .

We want to win against Fiji, says Klappenbach

. . . but we want to give our all against Fiji, says Klappenbach. Photos:BBC

And as they assemble for a traditional barbecue, or asado, in the backyard of the residence of Uruguay’s ambassador to London, hooker Nicolas Klappenbach is adamant his men are going to give everything in the upcoming match.

“We are all competitive. Even though we are amateurs, we play our hearts out and when we step onto that pitch we want to win.”

Taking a big bite out of a steak sandwich, he reassures me that they haven’t come just to watch other teams.

“We’ve come here to play and to give our all.”

  • BBC

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