Uruguay go into the Rugby World Cup in Japan as the third lowest ranked team and broadly unknown to the rugby public. Many will expect to see them on the end of heavy defeats and ugly scorelines. Although Uruguay may not make a serious impact at the World Cup they will have a lot to offer come September.
David Challis assesses their credentials going into the tournament as has previously done with Fiji. Can Uruguay post their first Rugby World Cup win since 2003 or will they be dominated by the bigger hitters again?
Uruguay World Cup history
Rugby has traditionally been a relatively well-funded game in Uruguay as it has been favoured by the upper classes of society. However they have not been World Cup regulars and have only qualified on 3 occasions (1999, 2003 and 2015).
Uruguay’s qualification in 2015 was nothing short of miraculous as they beat out favourites Russia for the final spot. However when they arrived in England reality hit home. Each of their four games was a defeat by over 40 points and they only scored two tries.
Greatest World Cup moment
Their greatest World Cup moments have to come in the shape of their only two wins. The first of these came in 1999 when they managed to defeat Spain 27-15. A try from Uruguayan rugby legend Diego Ormaechea sealed a relatively comfortable victory. Their second victory came against Georgia in 2003. Again another fairly comprehensive win with the final score being 24-12.
Recent form shows great promise for Uruguay rugby
Uruguay have shown a lot of promise in recent times. This season they finished second in the America’s Rugby Championship. Their only defeat being against the Argentina XV. This included a notable win over the USA and in 2018 they also defeated Romania. This has resulted in a steady rise up the world game.
Three key players to watch
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Arata has gained a reputation recently as a nippy scrum half. He loves to spot a gap around the fringes of the rucks and has the pace to back it up. Arata is perhaps the Uruguayans most talented player. Watch out for him against the tier one nations as he could show up a famous face or two.
Juan Manuel Gaminara
Gaminara will captain the Uruguayans this year. He is an abrasive and powerful back-row player who will aim to add a hard edge to their pack. Whether he can lead Uruguay to a third Rugby World Win remains to be seen. However he will be at the centre of the efforts.
Sanguinetti is Uruguay’s ninth most capped player and is a tremendously experienced prop forward. He, alongside Arata, has recently signed to Major League Rugby to play for the Houston Wildcats. He will aim to sure up the set piece to provide his side some quality ball.
Pool D – What are Uruguay’s chances?
Uruguay are definitely a much-improved outfit from the class of 2015. As such we should not expect 60 point defeats this time around. However whether they can cause an upset against Fiji or Georgia in their group is another matter.
They will certainly compete but to predict a win would probably be a stretch too far.
Looking beyond the 2019 Rugby World Cup
Uruguay’s shock qualification in 2015 has put rugby back into the forefront of the country’s sporting thoughts. The rugby governing body immediately put the revenue generated from the tournament straight back into its player development systems.
As a result a number of their players are now on full time contracts for clubs across the globe. This has done wonders for the development of Uruguayan rugby. If they can continue this trajectory of improvement post 2019 then they can begin to be talked about in the same realms as Japan and Georgia.
Of course this is a long way off but they have begun to create solid player development systems. This could see Uruguay becoming a real threat over the next few decades if they continue their upward path.
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