It’s been Amazing, Says Uruguay Captain after Big NZ Loss

REUTERS/Paul Childs
Rugby Union – Rugby World Cup 2023 – Pool A – New Zealand v Uruguay – Groupama Stadium, Lyon, France – October 5, 2023 New Zealand’s Damian McKenzie scores their first try

LYON, France, Oct 5 (Reuters) – Getting hammered 73-0 by New Zealand on Thursday was not how Uruguay wanted to end their Rugby World Cup experience but they leave with memories of impressive performances and their spirit unbroken.

They began their campaign brilliantly, giving France’s second string a real scare before losing 27-12, and were similarly competitive in a 38-17 loss to Italy.

The game they – and their opponents – described as their World Cup final was against Namibia and was a brilliant match, which they won 36-26, scoring four tries along the way.

A crowd of almost 50,000 turned out to watch it, a figure highlighted by tournament organisers as an example of how the neutrals have turned out in force even for a game involving two minor nations.

Uruguay started well against New Zealand, frustrating their illustrious rivals as they sought to continue their run of scoring at least two tries in every game in the tournament.

The dam broke after 20 minutes and the All Blacks took total command, running in 11 tries, yet Uruguay never stopped tackling and never stopped taking the ball up hard when they had it even as they failed to score a point for the first time in 19 Rugby World Cup matches,

“I am very proud of the players and the staff,” said coach Esteban Meneses. “New Zealand are the best team in the world and we played well in the first 20 minutes.

“I love the passion of the players, it’s incredible. They play with their heart. They are very good players and very good people. I love them. I think the way in which they give their lives for the shirt, for the game and for the team, that is what I will take away from this World Cup.”

Captain Andres Vilaseca was similarly upbeat.

“Today we were against the best team in the world and sometimes you just have to keep pushing and try your best,” he said. “Fatigue, both physical and mental, started to play a part but we can be very proud of ourselves.

“I think we had an amazing World Cup. Playing France, Italy, Namibia – we won – and now New Zealand, playing the best team in the world. It’s about learning and trying to give our best and trying to grow the sport in Uruguay. It has been amazing.”

Like just about every other coach of a tier two team, Meneses signed off with the now familiar, but destined to be ignored, plea.

“What we need to continue to progress and grow is to be able to have more matches against Tier One teams,” he said.