Ready, hungry and passionate. That is the current state of mind of Colombia as they ready themselves for the inaugural Americas Rugby Challenge, which begins in the country's second largest city Medellín on Sunday.

After what has already been an unforgettable season for Colombian rugby, the hosts are expecting a good crowd to come out and support the team at the quaint Estadio Cincuentenario.

Earlier this year, Los Tucanes made their debut among the elite of South American rugby, playing in the revamped Sudamericano Seis Naciones, their U18 girls qualified for the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games in October and the men's and women's sevens teams won gold in the recent Central American and Caribbean (CASCO) Games.

The goal for Los Tucanes over the next week or so is simple. “We want to win the Challenge,” says experienced captain Sebastián Mejía Gil.

To be in a position to do this, rugby in this South American country has been on a positive growth curve for a number of years now, something described as the 'miracle of Colombian rugby' by Federación Colombiana de Rugby President Andrés Gómez.

In that sense, the team have been working tirelessly in order to be ready for a new tournament that will offer an incredible sporting opportunity to the four developing unions and teams with Colombia joined by Paraguay, Mexico and Guyana in creating history.

“It is the end of our season and we want to finish it on a high after a season that had our teams winning gold in the CACSO Games and our debut in the top echelon in the Seis Naciones," said coach David Jaramillo.

“This tournament is special because we are in a very good place and our standard is high. The team has grown and matured, playing to a new standard. On and off the field at the Federation, work has gone in so that we have this standard we currently have.” 

Home support

With regards to their opponents, Jaramillo says: “We don't know much about Guyana, but we know that Mexico and Paraguay will be tough.”

With no rest since November and at the end of a long and fruitful season, Los Tucanes are at their peak and Mejía Gil hopes his team can take their chance.

“Against Paraguay, in the Seis Naciones, we lost in the last move in Asunción. At home, in our ground with our fans support, it is our chance to get a win,” said Gil. 

“You can see it in the face of the players. We are focused and ready. As captain and representing them, we say we must win. Winning will come from doing things right.” 

On paper, Paraguay will be Colombia's toughest opponent. Colombia led 26-15 at half-time when the sides met in the Sudamericano Seis Naciones, but the boot of Sergio Alvarenga turned the tide in the Yacarés' favour and they ran out 28-26 winners.

“Our defence will be key if we are to defeat Paraguay in the final round, we must be strong in the tackle,” insisted Jaramillo. “We've never played them at home so this will be our big chance.”

Paraguay and Mexico get proceedings underway on Sunday, before Colombia's encounter against Guyana.