Few people call Rodrigo Silva, an ever-present in Uruguay's 13-test unbeaten run, by his first name these days, a throw back to his youth when someone at the Carrasco Polo Club said the young boy looked like a well-known cartoon of that time and the nickname ‘Dibu’ stuck.
Fast-approaching 50 caps, Los Teros full-back has proven to be one of their most consistent players over the past two years.
“I think where we are today is due to a number of reasons which include hard work, good team spirit, a sound tactical approach, commitment and sacrifice,” explained Silva while enjoying two rare days off in a busy rugby schedule on a farm outside of Montevideo.
A fourth-year agronomy student, he is facing tough choices as this year he is expected to move outside of the capital city for a six-month university practice.
“It is about 400 kilometres from home and I can come back on weekends. I have to see what to do,” Silva explains, leaving no doubts that rugby will be a priority.
“The plan is to make everything work. One of the reasons why Uruguay is where it is, is because each player has put Los Teros ahead of everything and I want to be ready when the Rugby World Cup comes around.”
Time is a luxury
Los Teros qualified for Japan 2019 earlier this month after defeating Canada twice, giving the team and the union almost 19 months to prepare accordingly.
Going to his first Rugby World Cup in England was a dream come true, but going to Japan will be about competing insists Silva.
“Two outstanding memories are playing against Wales at the Millennium and the run that lead to Agustin Ormaechea’s try against Fiji,” recalls Silva, who started the four matches on the left wing. “I owe it to myself to score a try … that came very close,” he laughs.
Adding to his nine test tries in Japan, where Uruguay will face Australia, Wales, Georgia and Fiji in Pool D, would be a bonus.
“Japan will be incredible and having so much time to prepare is a luxury. We want to be more competitive, win more ball and have fun attacking.”
As much as Japan 2019 looms on the horizon, Silva and his team-mates are focused on the Americas Rugby Championship. Six days after securing their ticket to the first Rugby World Cup in Asia they were lacing their boots to play Brazil, a match they had to come from behind to win 27-18 in Sao Paulo.
A nice challenge
“It was mentally tough and we gave away the first half, but we were mature enough to turn it around. That is what we are made of.”
Los Teros have not lost a game in a full calendar year, stretching to 14 the consecutive wins – 13 of them test matches. The last team to beat them was Argentina XV, their opponent this Saturday in Punta del Este.
“It will be a very tough game, a nice challenge for us. We are having a good stretch and even though we love playing at the Estadio Charrúa, we also like playing in Punta del Este. Having not lost for quite some time has given us hope that we can win the ARC. This is a key game.”
Among the spectators this weekend will be his father Fernando, who played seven times for Los Teros in the 1980s and coached Uruguay in their failed attempt to qualify for Rugby World Cup 2007.
A lot has happened since and Uruguay has now a solid high performance programme and a union that is there to ensure the growth of the game is sustainable.
“I don’t know what or when things changed, but things work and when you get the results, everything is easier and we are more convinced,” concluded the 25-year-old.
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Americas Rugby Championship 2018 - Round 5
CHILE v CANADA: 17-33
URUGUAY v USA: 19-61
BRAZIL v ARGENTINA XV: 8-28