South America is the centre of the rugby universe this month with major tournament hosting and a surge in fan-base growth pointing to the potential in the sport-mad region.
With the World Rugby U20 Championship and World Rugby Nations Cup currently being hosted in Argentina and Uruguay respectively, the Jaguares doing well in Super Rugby, and the World Rugby U20 Trophy and the men's regional qualifier for Tokyo 2020 set to take place in Brazil and Chile respectively next month, there is plenty to shout about in South American rugby.
And in a further boost, history was made when Chile played Romania on Saturday in the first-ever test between the two nations in a cracking match at Estadio Elías Figueroa Brander in Valparaiso. Chile are a rising force in South America and while they were defeated 27-11 by Romania, they showed that the future of rugby in the region is alive and kicking.
Brazil were also in action in San Pablo, pushing Spain all the way in a cracking match before going down 22-16. Like Spain, Brazil are making significant progress in world rugby thanks to exposure to a strong annual programme of fixtures.
The continent continues to experience a surge in rugby popularity. Recent Nielsen research has demonstrated that there are 32.8 rugby followers in South America, an increase of more than 30 per cent since 2013, while Chile, Brazil and Colombia have led the charge in fan growth.
World Rugby Vice-Chairman and Rugby Americas President Agustín Pichot said: “South America is a story of rugby growth driven by a common vision, clear strategy and a passion for the sport and its values.
“The rugby community is growing and thriving across the region and there has been an explosion in popularity and participation in Chile, Colombia and Brazil, which is very exciting in a global context.
“These tournaments are a further opportunity to show the world the significant and exciting steps that have been taken on and off the field. Everything that we do has the player and the fan in mind, with so much sport and entertainment choice, we need to make rugby as fun, simple and accessible as possible for the next generation of fans and players, and that is what we are doing – the Americas Rugby Championship in particular, has been central to that strategy.”
Brazil’s women’s sevens team also secured a second-consecutive Olympic Games place after winning the South American qualifier in Lima, Peru, on 2 June, while Colombia and Argentina – as silver and bronze medallists – will advance to the repechage, only weeks after securing a return to the HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series 2020 with victory in the qualifier in Hong Kong.
The World Rugby Nations Cup concludes in Montevideo on Saturday with Uruguay knowing that a win against Argentina XV will be enough for them to retain the trophy for a third year. Victory for Argentina XV would see them claim the title unless Russia get the same number of match points from their concluding fixture against Namibia. All matches are being streamed live by World Rugby across its digital and social platforms.
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