The Uruguayans wanted to “make history” against Italy, Wednesday September 20, in Nice. This match on the Côte d’Azur had been ticked off by the Teros for a long time: their goal of the World Cup was to leave France with two victories, synonymous with third place in Pool A and direct qualification for the next Rugby World Cup , in 2027, in Australia. A success against Italy, one of the two teams in the group at their level (along with Namibia), was therefore absolutely necessary. But the Uruguayan dream came up against a solid, precise and, ultimately, much superior Italian team: the Uruguayans left the Allianz Riviera pitch with a heavy defeat (38-17).

The Teros undoubtedly believed it, when they returned to the locker room at the end of the first period with a score that they would not have even dared to imagine before the match. At the end of the first forty minutes of the match, they led by ten points against the Italians (7-17).

This first period, however, started badly for the South Americans: while they were unable to open the scoring despite a penalty in the first minute of play, the Transalpines were much more realistic. Arriving within the Uruguayan 22 meters after a follow-up kick from Ange Capuozzo, a well-negotiated scrum allowed young winger Lorenzo Pani to take the try (7th). The Italians – dominant in closed scrums, superior in collisions and determined to launch their attacks from their own camp – seemed well established in the match against the Uruguayans who were then a little clumsy and imprecise against the poles.

The Italians forced to play at 13

But the South Americans showed more desire and were able to rely in particular on their well-structured and effective carried balls. In the 26th minute, after a long sequence near the Italian line, the Uruguayan forwards obtained a first penalty, also sanctioned with a yellow card for an Italian player. On the sidelines that followed, these same forwards were rewarded with a penalty try, awarded after a long video referee, also accompanied by a yellow card for the Italians, now forced to play at 13. This equalization of the Teros marked the turning point of the first period.

Because with two players less, the task became very complicated for the Italians. In the 35th minute, cornered near their line by brutal and unleashed Uruguayans, the Transalpines could only give in, allowing Nicolas Freitas to flatten into a corner. Just before the break, Uruguayan flyhalf Felipe Etcheverry even managed a tight drop, confirming the very good first period for the Uruguayans, who could still have real hopes of victory.

Difference in physical freshness

Everything changed when we returned from the locker room. Faster, more precise, cleaner coming out of regrouping, conserving their balls more and above all helped by the return to play of the two players temporarily excluded, the Italians multiplied the sequences of play. The Uruguayans were quickly overtaken by this speed , especially since they, in turn, were sanctioned with a yellow card. The Azzurri scored three tries in quick succession on their return from the locker room: first by Michele Lamaro (46th), then by Monty Ioane (52nd) and, finally, by Lorenzo Cannone (56th).

A quarter of an hour had barely passed in the second half when Italy had swallowed up their delay, largely overtaken Uruguay and secured a precious offensive bonus, the second in as many matches. A new try from Ignacio Brex (61st) concluded 22 minutes during which the Italians scored 28 points, completely defeating the overwhelmed Uruguayans.

The disappointment is cruel for the Uruguayans, who only lost by seven points during their last meeting against the Italians, at the end of 2021, in Parma. One wonders if the Teros didn’t have the wrong match. By making life difficult for the French, six days ago, in a match which was not crucial for them, they perhaps left forces which they lacked against the Italians, who themselves did not have played since September 9th. This difference in physical freshness was obvious in the second half, where the Uruguayans, blunted, were unable to respond to the new energy brought by the Italian bench.

After the match, Uruguayan coach Esteban Meneses wanted to remember “the passion and involvement” shown by his players as well as their good first half. “We set ourselves an extremely ambitious goal. We missed forty minutes to reach it, but Uruguay are doing a good job and we are on the right track. During these forty minutes, we hurt the opponent, that’s what we have to remember. We must now turn the page and focus on Namibia. We will have to get up to defeat it” explained the coach.

Conversely, satisfaction is in order for the Transalpines. From an accounting point of view, first: at the top of the standings in Pool A, they are now guaranteed to finish among the first three in this group and are therefore qualified for the next World Cup. From the point of view of the game, then: if the Italians, who have so far only faced teams within their reach, play against the New Zealanders and the French the game they developed in the second half, a result surprising cannot be ruled out. With five tries and a secure offensive bonus, the Italians also did better than the French against the same Uruguayans. The XV of France, which the Italians will meet again on October 6 for their final match in Group A, will have to watch this match against the Teros carefully.