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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 October, 2003, 10:04 GMT 11:04 UK
Menchaca puts his job on the line

By Jim Stokes
BBC Sport in Perth

Juan Ramon Menchaca
Menchaca is Uruguay's number one goalkicker
The name of Juan Ramon Menchaca will hardly make Jonny Wilkinson quake in his sleek new boots. But at least the little Uruguayan has plenty of bottle.

The 26-year-old salesman from Montevideo nearly got the sack last week, just because he wanted to play rugby.

Not just any old rugby game, but the chance to appear at the game's global extravaganza which kicks off this Friday.

Menchaca's plight highlights the enormous chasm between the rich and poor nations within the International Rugby Board.

In effect, Menchaca is paying for the experience with his job as a bottled water salesman.

Such was his plight, he had to work last week to make up time, and only arrived on Monday to join up with his Uruguayan team-mates.

With England and South Africa in our group, Uruguay will be playing against two of the top five teams in the world
Uruguay spokesman Pablo Lijtenstein

To make matters worse for the exciting running full-back, he only made it onto the bench for his side's opener against South Africa in Perth on Sunday.

He was dropped despite being the hero when Uruguay qualified for the tournament. It was his record four dropped goals that helped defeat fierce South American rivals Chile 34-23 in his home city.

But Los Teros head coach Diego Ormaechea had little option as he prepared his side for what will be a tall order against the fired-up Springboks.

But spokesman Pablo Lijtenstein said that Menchaca, like the rest of the Uruguayan squad, does not mind in the slightest.

Great incentive

''They just love their rugby,'' said Lijtenstein. ''To play against the elite of the world is their goal.

''With England and South Africa in our group, Uruguay will be playing against two of the top five teams in the world.

''That is a great incentive for the players, and the reason they play the game.

''There was talk that Juan Ramon actually lost his job because he wanted to come here, but that is not right.

''However, like the rest of the players he is an amateur and does not receive any money for playing the game.

''They enjoy playing and to appear in this tournament is the pinnacle of their dreams.''

The same, of course, applies to Wilkinson. But as a full-time professional rugby player, model and pundit, he will have plenty of escudos to play with.

Uruguay will be appearing in their second World Cup finals having appeared last time around when they lost two of their three pool games.

Importantly they gave the Boks a bit of a fright in only losing 39-3 on a rainy afternoon in Glasgow four years ago.

Links to more Uruguay stories


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