The World Rugby Nations Cup returns to Uruguay this weekend but with four teams instead of six competing for the trophy.
Los Teros are joined by Fiji Warriors, Argentina XV and Emerging Italy in a round-robin event staged over three matchdays at the Carrasco Polo Club.
The Carrasco Polo Club has hosted RWC qualifiers in the past and has been pressed into use because Estadio Charrua is unavailable due to renovation work, including the installation of an artificial pitch and new floodlights.
Parque Artigas, in the city of Las Piedras, 45 minutes north of Montevideo, was originally scheduled as an alternative, but relentless rain has rendered the pitch unplayable.
Argentina XV and Emerging Italy will kick off the tournament on Saturday at 12.30 local time (GMT-3) followed by Los Teros and Fiji Warriors at 3pm.
Just over a year away from Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan, the four participating teams have an invaluable opportunity to try and develop players that aspire to grace the game’s biggest tournament.
Los Teros, having secured their place in Pool D for next year’s showcase event, understand the World Rugby Nations Cup will give them much-needed international competition.
“The Nations Cup is a quality tournament that fits us very well,” says captain Juan Manuel Gaminara. “We love playing at home and this is a level of rugby that we need in order to prepare for next year. This year it will be as hard as last year, and we know that Argentina XV and Emerging Italy want to prove themselves after the 2017 edition. We know Fiji very well and we know how hard they will be.”
Having been drawn in the same pool as Fiji at RWC 2019, Gaminara says an early hit out against the Warriors will prove invaluable.
“We start against Fiji Warriors and even if they are not the test side, it is the standard we aspire to and playing them will give us some knowledge of where we are at in our preparation in terms of Rugby World Cup.”
For the team from the South Pacific, the goal is clear, as captain Mesu Dolokoto explains. “Wherever we go, in whichever competition we play in, our goal is always to win,” he said. “We have a mix of experienced and young players in the squad and every player knows this tournament is a stepping stone in their Rugby World Cup ambitions.”
There are plenty of recognisable faces in the Argentina XV squad captained by Lautaro Bavaro. Three-time RWC player Juan Manuel Leguizamón, wing Manuel Montero and lock Benjamín Macome are all set to feature and Matías Moroni and Tomás Cubelli both return from long-term injuries. Meanwhile, fly-half Joaquín Díaz Bonilla will be playing his fourth Nations Cup after first playing at this tournament in 2013.
“We have a team with experienced players – some that have been playing in Argentina XV for quite some time – and some newcomers. We have the right combination to play good rugby here in Uruguay and expectations are high,” said Bavaro. “The goal is always to be better as a player and make the team better. How we finish will be a consequence of that.”
Every game from the Nations Cup will be streamed live at www.worldrugby.org/nationscup