Playing against two of the top teams in the world, for the first time in a global tournament, was huge for Uruguay, a small country desperate to maintain its progress on the world stage. Their opening game against France - a 27-12 defeat - showed how good they can be at the highest level. The 73-0 defeat by New Zealand was hard to swallow but another milestone for the game in the South American country.
Try of the tournament
Both tries against France showcased Los Teros’ bag of tricks. For the first, fly-half Felipe Etcheverry delivered a cross-kick that winger Nicolás Freitas controlled with the skills of a football striker before gathering to score in the left corner. The second, after a series of attacks, had full-back Baltazar Amaya evading two tacklers to score, showing the ability he has shown in the Uruguay sevens team that has qualified for the Paris 2024 Olympics.
Quote that said it all
"The way in which they [the players] give their lives for the shirt, for the game, for the team is something admirable. That is what I will take away from this World Cup, that Uruguay gave everything."
Coach Esteban Meneses after his side’s loss against the All Blacks in their final game.
Man of the moment
Scrum-half Santiago Arata is highly rated in French domestic rugby, where he shines for Castres Olympique. He brought his best form to the World Cup and scored a great try in the 36-26 win over Namibia. Still only 27, he still has plenty of good rugby left in him.
One for the future
His try against France was a calling card for full-back Baltazar Amaya. Born in Argentina but raised in Uruguay, he came through the age grade ranks and helped Los Teros book a place in Paris 2024 after a starring role in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series. Amaya blossomed in France, scoring three tries in three games.
From the Touchline
Asado. That word alone - barbecue - means a lot in Uruguayan culture. After the win against Namibia, the team celebrated with a massive asado, hosted by former URU chairman and current Sudamérica Rugby vice-chairman, Marcello ‘Chelo’ Calandra. His ability at the spit is such that he fed more than 150 family and friends, using 110 kilograms of prime Uruguayan beef.
Flanker Diego Ardao (pictured) was a force of nature at the breakdown and Uruguay’s turnover king. He hit 49 defensive rucks, made 45 tackles and won seven turnovers, as well as forcing three ruck penalties, catching the eye of millions watching, including - who knows? - interested clubs.
Uruguay’s motto in Japan 2019 was "shock the world”. They did that by beating Fiji in Kamaishi. But the rugby world was put on high alert again as they pushed hosts France all the way in their opening match. Their stated goal for 2023 was to beat Italy and Namibia to secure their place in Australia 2027. After leading at half-time, they succumbed to a more experienced Italian team but with Super Rugby Americas as their breeding ground – Uruguay’s Peñarol Rugby are double champions – they will continue to grow. For a small country of less than four million, the last 45 days have been huge.