Many would understand if Uruguay, having only secured their place to a second consecutive Rugby World Cup with victory over Canada last weekend, chose to rest some of their players and even stepped off the gas for a game or two.
On Friday, Los Teros face another side riding high at the moment in Brazil, who secured a first-ever win in Chile the same day as Uruguay booked their ticket to Japan 2019, one that helped them climb to their highest ever position of 25th in the World Rugby Rankings.
That is a prospect, though, that forwards coach Oscar Durán, the tighthead prop who helped Los Teros qualify for RWC 2015, is quick to dismiss ahead of the match at the Estadio do Pacaembu in Sao Paulo.
“The game against the Brazilians falls exactly 592 days from Rugby World Cup 2019 which gives us sufficient time to plan and ensure the players go in their best shapes,” insisted Durán.
“But we won’t start rotating now. Brazil is a very hard team, they beat Chile away, they have big aims and we are also wanting to win the Americas Rugby Championship.”
Key names absent
Uruguay currently sit top of the Americas Rugby Championship 2018 standings after the opening round with five points, one more than USA and Brazil with Chile, Argentina XV and Canada all back on one point.
Durán knows that after the mental toll of having achieved a huge goal of RWC 2019 qualification, players might be less focused and Los Teros will also be missing a number of their usual starters. Scrum-half Santiago Arata out for possibly three weeks after taking a heavy knock to his collarbone and Franco Lamana, Felipe Berchesi, Agustín Ormaechea, Manuel Leindaker and 37-year old Rodrigo Capó Ortega having returned to their clubs in Europe.
The experience of Capó Ortega was a key part of Uruguay’s success and it was Durán who, a few months ago, contacted his good friend from all the way back to the U14 side at the Carrasco Polo Club to ask him if he wanted to come back and play for Uruguay.
“He was great for the team and the coaching staff. We are happy to have had him involved. He now has to think if he will be available for Japan. We’ll be delighted to have him.”
Nothing has changed in the days leading into the match with Brazil. The team had a recovery session on Monday and Tuesday meant the usual two daily training sessions, at 07:00 and 19:00.
Luxury of time
“This way, players are done soon enough to go to work or study,” explained Durán, who works in financial services and won’t be making the two-hour flight to Brazil. “I have to miss some to go to others. Fortunately, I have good bosses but I am skipping this one.”
The series against Canada is now in the past, but certainly not forgotten.
“The way they came out in the opening 20 minutes we knew they would not be able to keep up. That doesn’t mean at 15-0 I wasn’t nervous,” he laughs. “Being under the posts I could see how ‘Garrafa’ (captain Juan Manuel Gaminara) was a calming influence on the team. They changed a few things from the first game and we managed to find the way in the second half.”
Focus and concentration was also key as “we knew they would fall into mistakes” and so it proved with Andres Vilaseca’s two late tries coming from forced Canadian mistakes to secure Uruguay’s qualification as Americas 2.
“We have the luxury of time to plan for that one (RWC 2019), but we want to win the ARC so we won’t relax.”
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