Young Uruguayan squad set their sights on qualifying for Rio Olympics in 2016

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 March, 2012, 12:00am


Uruguay captain German Albanell set his sights on Olympic qualification after a strong finish to the qualifying tournament, overrunning debutants Guyana 31-0 in the play-off for 9th-12th positions.

'We want to qualify for the Rio Games,' said fly half Albanell after Uruguay bounced back from three disappointing losses in pool D.

Two weeks ago they had their best moment, beating the highly rated Argentinians in the final of the South American championships.

The 'Los Teros' last played at the Hong Kong event in 2009 when they finished runners-up in the Bowl, and had hoped to challenge for one of the three core world series spots up for grabs.

Albanell, 22, couldn't hide his disappointment, even though they won the final match-up against surprise packages Guyana, who shocked China 7-5 in the semi-finals of the qualifier placings.

'After winning the South American title, we came here with high expectation and high morale. But we did not deliver at our normal level,' said Albanell, who was making his debut in Hong Kong.

'Somehow we lost our focus after losing to China on Saturday. The first two matches against Hong Kong and China were crucial.'

They then lost their last pool match 33-12 to Tonga.

'There are only two players older than me in the team and most of us are students born after the '90s,' Albanell said. 'We still have a long way to go and our next goal is to get the team to mature quickly. It may take a few years to make the team a consistently strong one and our ultimate goal is to qualify for the 2015 rugby World Cup [15s] and the Rio Olympics in 2016,' said the accountancy student from ORT Uruguay.

Coach Luis Pedro Achard said: 'I didn't expect our players to win the South American title this year but they did. Here, there is disappointment at their performance. But they are very young and I think they need more time to become consistent.'

Meanwhile, there will be no rest for Guyana when they head back home after a bruising initiation on the biggest Sevens stage.

With a pool of just 300 registered players to choose from, every member of the squad will now swap sevens for 15s as their country throws itself into the Caribbean qualifiers for the 2015 World Cup.

'Even though it is very small, we have a dedicated group of players who are committed to developing the game,' said captain Ryan Gonsalves. 'We don't make any money from the game, we are all volunteers, so we are just hoping we get invited back and continue to help the game develop back home. More exposure at this level will help us to become more competitive.

'The experience has been great for the team because we are a developing rugby nation and we only have this kind of exposure maybe once a year - and certainly nothing like the experience before that we've had coming here to Hong Kong,' he said.

Ryan admitted a lack of numbers back home put a constant strain on resources - both physical and economic - but the attention his team had received in Hong Kong would be of great benefit to the game.

'We're the second best team in the Caribbean at the moment but we are hoping to win the title this year and move on. Hong Kong has been amazing. It is a rugby player's dream, especially coming from a small nation like Guyana.

'We are a bit disappointed we didn't close out the game against Russia and go home with a win but we are learning and we are loving our rugby.'