It’s slim pickings for Uruguay in the opening weekend of the ARC as their first choice team host Russia in the final World Cup qualifying match on Saturday. As a result they’ve selected a largely inexperienced group, though five players from the senior squad will be parachuted in to bolster the side following the weekend. A handful of veterans will be on hand to oversee things for a tough opening fixture against Canada.
Like their Argentine cousins, Los Teros are famous for their prowess at the scrum, and once again it should prove an area of strength. Four of the five props were part of last year’s ARC squad, with only Argentina-based Lucas Scarnati uncapped at senior level. Loosehead Rodolfo de Mula was a surprise exclusion from the Russian match while massive tighthead Francisco Jiménez is hard to miss. Interestingly only one hooker is selected in highly promising German Kessler, a member of last year’s contingent and a star in the u20 side that impressed in Hong Kong this past April.
String bean lineout specialist Matías Beer is the senior second rower in the squad despite being two months shy of his 21st birthday, with the u20 pairing of Ignacio Dotti and Gonzalo Soto set to fill in beside him. Fernando Bascou adds some experience to a similarly lightweight back row that includes tackle enthusiast Agustin Alonso and this year’s u20 captain Manuel Castro.
Veteran goal kicker Matías Arocena has been recalled to help out diminutive Guillermo Lijstenstein at the halfbacks. Similarly 34 year old utility back Francisco Bulanti will be asked to take charge out wide, where only 7s winger Francisco Favaro has any real top level experience. The midfield looks especially thin, with only a single solitary cap between three youngsters, though versatile Rodrigo Silva could find himself there instead of his preferred flyhalf position.
Thankfully help is on the way in time to face Argentina mid-week. Back rowers Juan de Freitas and Diego Magno, scrumhalf Alejo Durán, and outside backs Leandro Leivas and Gastón Mieres will all ride in with the cavalry. That is, of course, dependent on them surviving what is sure to be a fiercely contested match in Montevideo. For de Freitas and Magno, forced to front up against the big Russian forwards, that will be a particularly tough ask.
Stand-in coach Mario Risso, who normally leads the women’s side, will likely be targeting the final game against the Americans to try and steal a win. Los Teros finished last a year ago but in 2012 defeated the Eagles Select XV to take third. With so much inexperience it’s hard to see them achieving that this year. Look for their set piece to be competitive but aside from that they will struggle to put points on the board. Still, if the likes of Kessler and Dotti rise to the challenge and emerge as future test contenders, the tournament can be seen as a success.
Saturday, October 11 – 14:30 PST – vs Canada ‘A’
Wednesday, October 15 – 18:00 PST – vs Argentina Jaguars
Sunday, October 19 – 16:30 PST – vs USA Select XV