It is almost a year since Uruguay qualified for Rugby World Cup 2019, as Americas 2 on a bright, sunny day in Montevideo.
Previous qualification campaigns had gone on much longer, via the repechage, but victory over Canada ensured Los Teros would have the most preparation time yet – more than 18 months – leading up to the game's showpiece tournament.
So far that build-up has taken in a successful defence of the World Rugby Nations Cup and a first-ever win (27-20) against Romania in Bucharest, at the end of their November tour of Europe.
“The November window was very good taking into account the standard competition,” says Meneses.
Despite losses against Cardiff, Ulster and Fiji, before the win against the Oaks, Meneses was pleased with the way the side developed.
"We had clear goals for each game that we worked on. For the season finale in Bucharest, the goal was to win, which we achieved for a very good end to the year.”
After a few precious weeks off, the squad returned to the renovated Estadio Charrúa, now with a state-of-the-art artificial pitch, for two weeks before taking a New Year's break. Since 7 January, though, Los Teros have been working tirelessly.
Fitness was complemented by skills sessions and general teamwork ahead of the first game of a long season, a friendly against Argentine Super Rugby team Los Jaguares at the Charrúa, on the first weekend of February. The following week, the Americas Rugby Championship kicks off at home to Canada.
“Jaguares will be a very tough game; the speed, rhythm and contact area will be a challenge. It is what we are looking for this year, so a game such as this is a great opportunity to test us," says Meneses.
“We will have different goals along the season that will help us reach Japan at the top of our game. The ARC is in February and March, the Sudamerica Six Nations is in May and we’ll host the World Rugby Nations Cup again; they will all contribute to make us better every day and arrive in Japan ready.”
The Major League Rugby (MLR) season in the United States will also play a part in sharpening up some of the squad's skills.
Ten Uruguayan players have signed MLR contracts. Four are already with their clubs while the rest are waiting for paperwork to come through.
For Meneses, this is very positive. “It will offer 10 players good competition. Professional rugby, being away from home, being fully focused on the game, that will give them an edge." The plan is that MLR will still be made available for the Americas Rugby Championship.
Once the first half of the season is over, players from the MLR, European rugby and domestic-based players will all get together and work towards the Rugby World Cup.
“We will have a squad that will have had a lot of quality games, either with Los Teros or their professional clubs, which will help in the long run. This will come handy once we reach Japan.”
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