Second-string France struggles to beat feisty Uruguay at Rugby World Cup
LILLE, France (AP) — Reflecting on his team’s best ever performance against a top-tier side, Uruguay captain Andres Vilaseca was full of praise for the “extraordinary work” of his teammates, and full of hope their strong display against France is just the beginning of a great adventure at the Rugby World Cup.
Ranked 17th in the world, Uruguay fought toe to toe with big favorite France. It lost the match 27-12, but only after an unexpectedly ferocious battle.
“I’m so proud of my team,” said Vilaseca. ”I couldn’t ask for a better team to lead. We were fighting against France, one of the best teams in the world on their home ground. I am so proud. This is only the beginning for us.”
Although France made 12 changes to the team that beat New Zealand last week, the level of performance achieved by Los Teros bodes well for the future. At some point, Uruguay came back within just one point of the French but cracked toward the end.
After stunning Fiji at the 2019 World Cup, Uruguay now wants to achieve two wins in pool A this year, against Italy and Namibia. Finishing third would guarantee a direct spot at the next World Cup.
“We are going to turn our focus to Italy and write history,” Vilaseca told media after the match, his head bandaged. “Tonight was just a first step. We all know our goal. Italy is a very strong team, but we are in full confidence, we know what we can achieve. Now we need to recover as fast as possible.”
Since the start of the tournament, France coach Fabien Galthie keeps telling his players that they must first and foremost relish the pleasure and joy of playing together.
Uruguay was so committed and intense at the Stade Pierre Mauroy that the French players could not take his suggestion to heart Thursday, with the Uruguay treatment looking more like a painful experience.
The hosts were adamant they were not over confident after taming the All Blacks and lauded Uruguay’s attitude.
“They showed a lot of aggression in this game, and in the first half we weren’t patient enough,” said France captain Anthony Jelonch. “We could have scored more points at the end of the first half. But they played like starving men, from start to finish, we could not just going into the last five meters.”
Uruguay coach Esteban Meneses was particularly satisfied by his players’ dominance in the mauls.
“They hurt us in the scrums and we conceded penalties that prevented us from having the ball and deploying our game fast enough,” he said. “But we had worked a lot on the mauls at training. It was crucial.”
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