Uruguay lost its opening game at the Rugby World Cup and received all of the plaudits.
Los Teros were tipped to lose by 40-plus points to France last Thursday in Lille. But after 55 minutes they trailed only 13-12, then conceded a fluke try. France eventually prevailed 27-12 and was booed by its own supporters.
Rugby-mad Uruguay President Luis Lacalle Pou was at the game with French President Emmanuel Macron after trade talks in Paris, and the former Old Boys player in Montevideo went into the Uruguay changing room to praise Los Teros, and take lots of photos.
“Everything that is done in life, if it is not with passion, it does not work,” Lacalle Pou told the team. “And let people who don’t know us notice it.”
The rugby world noticed. Uruguay humbled France, albeit a second-string side, but still. Los Teros earned 11 turnovers in their own 22 and stopped every French maul. That sterling work was undone by a vulnerable set-piece and 16 penalties.
But the passion with which Uruguay tore into the French was applauded, and Italy expects an even bigger effort from the South Americans on Wednesday in Nice.
ITALY vs URUGUAY (Italy leads 4-0 overall, 0-0 in RWC)
“Uruguay pose a massive threat,” Italy coach Kieran Crowley said. “I was in Canada 15 years ago and they were just starting to get their systems right. They have got a centralized program in Montevideo. Most of their team plays for (Penarol) club in the Central American championship. Then you add in the players who play in France and you have got a pretty formidable team.
“They have got 19 players who have been to one or two World Cups. We are expecting that physical battle. You saw in the France game that their breakdown work was outstanding.”
Italy has won all four previous meetings — the first in 1999 and the last in 2021 — but this will be their first on neutral ground and the first at the Rugby World Cup.
The Italians defeated Namibia 52-8 on the opening weekend and are using Uruguay as another steppingstone in the pool stage to giving New Zealand and France tough tests.
Uruguay has been open about targeting Italy and Namibia to earn two wins at a single Rugby World Cup for the first time.
To that end, Los Teros rested hooker German Kessler and winger Gaston Mieres against France and has restored them for Wednesday, when they will appear in their third Rugby World Cup.
The 15-point defeat to France was Uruguay’s narrowest loss in its Rugby World Cup history. Its 12 previous losses were by an average margin of 46 points.
Put the improvement down to passion.
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