Not since the Under 19 World Championship in 2001 has rugby captured the imagination of so many in Chile, but this interest has generated the pleasurable problem of having crowd problems.
“The capacity of the grounds we’ve used had to be enlarged and even if all of our operation problems multiply because of this, it is with pleasure that we are working to ensure as many Chileans as is possible can attend our tournament,” said IRB Tournaments Manager Philippe Bourdarias.
“Our biggest concern will always be safety, for players and spectators.”
The IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy has seen huge crowds whenever Chile played, to the extent that temporary seating was added at the Universidad Católica de Chile ground in San Carlos de Apoquindo and the Stade Français Club, host of the two de facto semi-finals on Wednesday.
For the final round of Pool matches, the capacity of Stade Français has been extended to 5,000 spectators and organizers even believe it could be not enough.
“It is great to have so much interest,” admitted Miguel Angel Mujica, Tournament Manager for the Federacion de Rugby de Chile, the host Union. “There is huge interest amongst municipal schools thanks to a large campaign we did and we have been informed schools from outside of Santiago will also come.”
Stade Français will play host to Uruguay v Georgia at 14:00 local time and Chile v Romania two hours later, “two matches that will attract the rugby fan,” acknowledges Mujica.
The biggest ever crowd in Chilean rugby history was at the final of the Under 19 World Championship in 2001 when New Zealand, skippered by Sam Tuitupou beat a French team that included Clément Poitrenaud and Frederic Michalak before 11,000 spectators.
“We are expecting these (Wednesday and Sunday) to be the biggest crowds for a Chilean junior team, comparable to the more than 6,000 that watched Chile play the USA under the rain in the RWC 2003 qualifying rounds,” added Mujica.