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Uruguay ready to step up Rugby World Cup 2023 preparations
A tour to Japan will be followed by back-to-back home tests against Romania in June and July.
With a two-test series to come against both Japan and Romania, Uruguay will have a good idea of where they are at respective to their fellow Rugby World Cup 2023 competitors by the time their action-packed summer schedule concludes in mid-July.
The four matches provide Los Teros with their first competitive run-outs since 2021, a historic year for the fast-emerging rugby nation after they qualified as Americas 1 for the first time.
Uruguay are no stranger to the Rugby World Cup having competed in the last two tournaments and four overall. But until October, they had never previously made it to the game’s flagship tournament as the top team from the Americas before.
After trailing the USA by three points from the first leg in Glendale, Colorado, Los Teros won the return match in Montevideo 34-15, to take the direct route to France 2023, 50-34 on aggregate.
🇺🇾 #OnThisDay in 2019 Uruguay shocked Fiji at the World Cup.— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) September 25, 2021
😢 Juan Manuel Gaminara's emotional interview showed what it meant to the team and the country.pic.twitter.com/DeQGZAdHE9
Qualifying as Americas 1 has given Los Teros the luxury of extra preparation time, and more matches against opposition that will test them in different ways.
Going to Japan will revive fond memories of Rugby World Cup 2019 for many of the players still present in the squad to this day.
On an emotionally-charged day at the Kamaishi Recovery Stadium, Uruguay famously bested Fiji, winning 30-27, for what was only their third tournament win since their debut appearance in 1999.
The first match of the Japan tour will take place on 18 June at the Chichibunomiya Stadium in Tokyo, a venue with a capacity for 27,000 spectators, while the second will be played on 25 June at the Mikuni Stadium in Kitakyushu, which can house 15,000 fans.
"For Uruguay, having the opportunity to play two games against a team of the stature of Japan is very important within the preparation for the next World Cup,” said URU President Santiago Slinger.
“The Brave Blossoms are one of the elite teams that have grown the most in recent years and are undoubtedly an example to follow.
“Visiting Japan again after what was our unforgettable experience at the 2019 World Cup is something very gratifying since it is a country that received us in a spectacular way. We are very happy to return and to play these games of such importance”.
On the only two previous occasions Uruguay played the Brave Blossoms in Japan in 2015, they were well beaten, 40-0 and 30-8.
But much progress has been made since then with the benefits of the Uruguayan high performance centre and involvement in the professional club leagues, Superliga Americana de Rugby and Major League Rugby, starting to take hold.
Coach Esteban Meneses has also done a wonderful job in galvanising and gelling together a team that is increasingly spread far and wide with some of Los Teros’ star performers picking up lucrative overseas contracts in France post-Rugby World Cup 2019.
While Japan are ranked nine places higher and boast nearly 12 points more than Uruguay, the second half of Uruguay’s test window pits together two teams not too far apart in the World Rugby Men’s Rankings.
Only two places and just over half a point separate sides that are much more well-known to each other compared to Uruguay’s fleeting association with the Brave Blossoms.
Andy Robinson’s Oaks will be welcomed to the Estadio Charrúa in Montevideo for tests on 10 and 17 July.
"The two games against Romania will be a tremendous opportunity to continue growing in preparation for France 2023,” said Meneses.
“It will be a great opportunity to join those selected who are playing in Europe today with those who are playing in the Major League Rugby and la Superliga Americana de Rugby, to measure ourselves against a direct rival in the ranking, since they are currently in 17th place and we are in 19th.
“We have to take advantage of this possibility in our quest to continue growing in the game and as a team for our great goal which is the World Cup."
Romania have only ever played Los Teros on Uruguayan soil once before, a 21-21 draw in Montevideo in 2010. That was the first leg of the final qualifier for RWC 2011, with the South Americans missing out on a trip to New Zealand following a 39-12 defeat in the return match.
The Oaks have won eight out of the remaining nine meetings since the solitary draw with Los Teros’ only success being a 27-20 win in Bucharest in November 2018.
At Rugby World Cup 2023, Uruguay are set to play New Zealand, France, Italy and the Africa 1 qualifiers in Pool A.