Since joining the Americas elite, Brazil's national team has beaten the higher-ranked Canada, USA and Chile and, last year, they shocked the Argentina XV in the Sudamerica Six Nations to become unexpected champions as well as being competitive against the New Zealand Maori, a game watched by a record 30,000 crowd at São Paulo's iconic Cicero Pompeu de Toledo stadium.

Rodolfo Ambrosio has been the coach for the last four years and the improvement under him has been clear for all to see.

"We have a small player base," says the Argentine-born, former Italian international, who played at Rugby World Cup 1987. "To add to that, on Monday we lost Yan Rosetti and we won't have him for about a month."

Rosetti, Brazil's captain and hooker, has torn a meniscus and his absence is clearly a blow as Os Tupis prepare to take on inaugural champions Argentina XV in the opening game of the Americas Rugby Championship 2019. 

Young talent

For Ambrosio, continual improvement in performance, rather than a win-at-all-costs attitude, is the theme as he looks to integrate some new blood into the squad.

"We've trained very hard. How will the ARC go for us? I don't know, we are developing young players. The challenge is to continue growing," he says.

“We are working to make it to France 2023, but I don't like to speak about winning games. If to win a couple of games, we have to play a style I don't like, then it is not what I am after. I'd rather develop a team and not aim for a score. It is not the moment to talk about wins.

"We are playing better rugby. Sometimes the score lies because, for example, last year we could have beaten the USA. We came back from trailing 24-0 to 24-19 and had the momentum and it looked as if we'd get the win. But we got a red card and all that hope disappeared.

"What is most important about the Americas Rugby Championship is that it's become a motivational tool for Brazilian players: they now have something to play for, something to prepare for. They have a purpose."

A young squad, with most players born in the mid-1990s, will tackle three teams that have qualified for Rugby World Cup 2019 (USA, Canada and Uruguay) and another one (Argentina XV) that will try to promote players to go to Japan. 

In the absence of Rosetti, Os Tupis will look to three veterans for leadership: tight-head Jardel Vettorato and the Duque brothers, Moises and Lucas, both with more than a decade of experience of playing for their country.


Tough task

Asked about the opposition his team will face, the experienced coach says: “Argentina XV is our first game on Saturday 2 February, and Argentina is always Argentina. The worst mistake you can make is to underestimate them, and we have a long trip to go and play against them. Then, we host a Canadian team that will be on high having qualified for Rugby World Cup 2019.”

After a bye week, a new introduction to the tournament in the interest of player welfare, Os Tupis will be in Austin, Texas, to tackle the US Eagles.

"They have a strong team and are the favourites to win. Their professional league (Major League Rugby) has been very positive for them."

From Austin it will be back to Sao Paulo to take on Chile, a game that traditionally decides who finishes bottom, a position Os Tupis have so far managed to avoid. However, Ambrosio recognises Chile will be all the stronger for having Pablo Lemoine on board as their new head coach.

ARC 2019 will finish in Montevideo, on 9 March, where Los Teros and Tupis will play each other in the tournament finale.

"Uruguay is in a good place, a very solid team, that is working very well," Ambrosio points out.

While Brazil have made big strides forward in recent years and are no longer the makeweights they once were, Ambrosio is realistic enough to realise that anything other than a bottom-two finish would present a successful campaign.

"The gap with the other teams is smaller but, with Chile, we are a step behind. Not recognising this would be lying to ourselves," he says.

However, Ambrosio says his side will give it their all. “Brazil has proven that it can and will fight. If we lose is because of our lack of experience, the lack of domestic competition. But we will never give up. You can't underestimate Brazil. No one comes to beat us by 70 points anymore."