Expectations are high in the Chile men's sevens camp as they look to secure a core team place on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2020 at the series qualifier in Hong Kong this weekend.
Semi-finalists in their previous two appearances, Chile head into the 12-team event buoyed by an impressive set of results that includes wins against New Zealand and Argentina development teams, France and a draw against defending series champions South Africa.
Part of their success is down to the on-field telepathy brought about by having two sets of brothers in the squad – Francisco and Pablo Metuaze and the Neiras, Francisco and Felipe. There could have been three sets as in Vancouver last month but only one of the Verschae brothers, Pedro, travelled to Asia.
“Choosing brothers is quite natural," explained Chile coach Edmundo Olfos, fresh from seeing his players play as the invitational team in the Las Vegas and Vancouver rounds of the series last month.
“They offer the team their brotherhood, but on the other side, fights that can be super simple for brothers are very strong for the rest. When brothers fight, we let them be, because that is how brothers are … we know they love each other!
“In the end, their union is stronger than their individuality.”
Enjoying the moment
A complex situation might arise when a brother is not selected, as happened with Martin Verschae.
“The player has to be mature, humble and strong and trust the group and coach,” added the experienced Olfos, who played with his cousin Jaime in the national team.
The Metuaze brothers started playing rugby together although they are not at the same club presently. Francisco, the youngest by a few months, explains. “We began playing at school and at Viña Rugby but at 15 years of age I moved to Sporting and we only started playing together again in the different national teams.”
Aged 30 and an employee at a food company owned by team-mate Ignacio Silva’s family, Francisco Metuaze is able to play international sevens thanks to the understanding of his bosses. “We train before and after work,” he says while adding, "playing with my brother makes us proud and happy. Few have the luck of doing so and we enjoy every moment together.”
Their father Pedro, who played some rugby in university, died in 2011, strengthening the bond between the brothers even further. "Playing together and sharing a field and all the emotions make us closer. We are a super tight team but having a brother as a team-mate is unique.”
Level of trust
It is very special to have three sets of brothers in the sevens programme. “The Verschae are also from Viña del Mar and our families are close; the Neiras are also close friends. There is a level of trust that comes with so many brothers," continues Francisco. “We have a special way of communicating. Others could see it as strange but it is the way we are.”
In that sense, older brother Pablo is more talkative. "I am the quiet one, but we understand each other," admits Francisco. "Growing up we had our fights, but not anymore. We are from the same generation, we hang out together and share the same friends.”
If Chile can finally break into the sevens elite it would mean the world to him, his family, friends and rugby in his country.
“We know what we are facing. If we make it to the series, I will take a year off work, knowing that I am coming to the end of my career. Qualifying is a goal we are chasing.”
In his fifth visit to Hong Kong, the goal is quite clear: “We are not here to see how we can do, we've come to win. There are strong teams such as Ireland or Germany, but we are full of confidence.”