Uruguay U20 head coach Mario Lamé insists his side are not looking past Wednesday’s opponents Hong Kong as the race for a place in the World Rugby U20 Trophy final reaches tipping point.
While top spot in Pool A will be decided by a de facto semi-final between current leaders Namibia (10 points) and second-placed Japan (nine points), the situation in Pool B is a little more complicated.
Portugal, Uruguay and Fiji can still qualify for the final as winners of Pool B depending on the outcome of the remaining two pool games. With eight points, Portugal’s destiny is in their own hands, while Uruguay and Fiji are two and three points in arrears respectively.
Tournament hosts Uruguay need to win to stand any chance of progressing while also hoping that pool leaders Portugal slip up against Fiji. But Los Teritos head coach Lamé is acutely aware that all the permutations will be irrelevant if they don’t back up their impressive 34-3 win over Fiji in midweek with victory against Hong Kong.
“We have to beat a tough Hong Kong side with a bonus point and then hope that Fiji will beat Portugal,” explained Lamé, a veteran of Uruguay's first Rugby World Cup campaign in 1999.
“We’ll take it play by play in the game with Hong Kong, a side that no-one knew much about and have shown a lot so far. They have strong forwards and their backs like to pass the ball. I only imagine a very hard game.”
GROWING IN CONFIDENCE
After the shock of losing their opening game to Portugal, 20-18, Los Teritos showed their true colours in the five-try win over Fiji, last year’s bronze medallists.
Players like Oyonnax Espoirs lock Manuel Leindekar, first capped last year, and captain Agustín Della Corte who made his test debut in the recent World Rugby Nations Cup-winning team, are core leaders of a squad that has been working hard since last year.
“They are a great bunch, for whom winning on Saturday meant a lot and allowed them to move on after the loss to Portugal which could so easily have been a win. Rather than dwelling on that, we worked harder and focused as we are now for the game in Punta del Este," added Lamé, who replaced Uruguayan rugby legend and former Los Teros team-mate, Pablo Lemoine, as head coach in April.
Not wanting to talk about what ifs and maybes, Uruguay's only focus is on winning on Wednesday before facing an anxious wait to see if Fiji can do them a favour.
Meanwhile, Namibia have quietly gone about their business to top Pool A with a perfect 10 points from 10 record following bonus-point wins over Canada and Chile. Now only Japan stand between them and a first-ever appearance in the Trophy final.
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