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Friday, September 17, 1999 Published at 14:43 GMT 15:43 UK

Uruguay: Pride of Los Teros

You underestimate Uruguay at your peril

The 1999 Rugby World Cup will be new territory for Uruguay after they clinched their first qualification, almost a year ago, from the Americas qualifying zone group and then the repechage stage.

And unlike opponents South Africa, who have waltzed into the tournament, the Uruguayans have played a mammoth nine times, culminating in the 36-34 aggregate (two legs) repechage win over Morocco.

Los Teros - who base their game around their forwards - will certainly be one of the most committed sides at the tournament, if perhaps one of the smallest.

Jubilant scenes accompanied their qualification and coach Daniel Herrera, who has been with the team since 1994 explained: "We are accustomed to the fighting spirit, the sacrifice, to work together, to have common goals.

"We are a very small playing country, smaller than the smallest of South African provinces. We have few playing resources and yet we have reached a World Cup. For us, qualifying felt like winning the Cup."

Money that comes from the IRB - through the profits from the World Cup - is the lifeline that Uruguayan rugby needs in a football-mad country, accustomed to competing on level terms in World Cups.

Herrera adds: "The fact our name will be announced and the flag will be hanging everywhere is important. We have to realise that we are ambassadors of our country."

Their "cup final" will of course come in the first game, on Saturday October 2 at Galashiels but there is a real belief in the Uruguay side - led by the oldest man at the tournament, 40-year-old Diego Ormaechea and one of the youngest coaches in 37-year-old Herrera - that they can push the Scots closer than many pundits believe.

Underestimate this proud nation at your peril.

World Cup squad:

Backs: Diego Aguirre, Sebastián Aguirre, Alfonso Cardoso, Martín CerviÑo, Pablo Costábile, Martín Ferrés, Juan Martín Marqués, Juan Menchaca, Martín Mendaro, Fernando Paullier, Federico Sciarra, Fernando Sosa Díaz, José Viana, Pedro Vecino.

Forwards: Diego Ormaechea (capt), Juan Alzueta, Juan Carlos Bado, Eduardo Berruti, Nicolás Brignoni, Francisco de los Santos, Leonardo de Oliveira, Nicolás Grillé, Guillermo Laffite, Mario Lamé, Diego Lamelas, Pablo Lemoine, Martín Panizza, Agustín Ponce de León, Rodrigo Sánchez, Guillermo Storace.

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