Uruguay last took part in the 2003 RWC in Australia. Photo: IRB
This weekend Uruguay face Hong Kong in the Rugby World Cup 2015 repechage semi-finals knowing that this stage in the qualifying competition represents the last chance saloon.
On the other side of the world Russia host Zimbabwe in another one-off tie, with the winner of both matches proceeding to a home-and-away final, the winner of which will join Australia, England, Wales and Fiji in an extremely competitive Pool A at England 2015.
“I have always said that the most difficult part in getting to a World Cup is the actual process of qualifying,” Uruguay’s head coach Pablo Lemoine told Total Rugby.
Russia’s talisman and fly-half, Yury Kushnarev. Photo: Getty Images
Ahead of their crucial Rugby World Cup 2015 repechage semi-final against Zimbabwe on 2 August, Russia invited Total Rugby behind the scenes, including one trailblazer with rugby in his blood.
While many of Russia’s players have converted from more mainstream sports to get to the top of international rugby, star fly-half Yury Kushnarev was seemingly born to play the game.
“I was born in a small town close to Moscow called Monino. My father played for the Soviet Union national team and they were based there. My brother started playing rugby, and then me, and we are still playing,” explained Kushnarev, who appeared in his country’s first ever Rugby World Cup in New Zealand in 2011 and has amassed a record 425 points from 63 Tests.
Shota Horie is a big influence for the Melbourne Rebels. Photo: IRB
As a Japanese professional rugby player exiled in Melbourne, hooker Shota Horie is every inch the pioneering rebel with a cause.
While the domestic J-League is no stranger to overseas imports, examples of home-grown Japanese players moving in the opposite direction and trying their luck abroad are few and far between.
Horie is one of a handful who have bucked the trend, first moving to Otago, where he linked up with compatriot and fellow rugby missionary Fumiaki Tanaka, and then on to the Victorian capital of Melbourne, who, this week, rewarded him with a contract extension.
Hailed as ‘a big influence’ by Melbourne Rebels coach Tony McGahan, Horie, who has made 17 appearances since his move to Australia, has also attracted lofty praise from Japan national team boss Eddie Jones.