The joy of rugby at Slava Moscow

(IRB.COM) Sunday 23 May 2010
By Chris Thau
From Moscow
 The joy of rugby at Slava Moscow
Agustin Ormaechea (centre), captain of Uruguay U20, with Slava U18 captain Ciprian Bobretsov (left) after the training session delivered by Uruguay for the Slava club in Moscow

There was a training session with a difference this week for the Under 18 team of the Slava Moscow club, one of the best talent factories of Russian rugby.

First of all it was the novelty of it. Instead of their normal coach, the session was run by a dozen or so of the Uruguayan players and coaches participating in this year's IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy.

The language in which they communicated was neither Russian nor Spanish, but an ad-hoc melange of the two, heavily peppered with English, which was remarkably effective taking into account the intensity of the session.

And then it was the fun of it, as the 30-odd Slava youngsters and their Uruguayan mentors went through the motions as if they have been playing together for ages. All this was part of the Legacy programme, which involves all eight participating teams in a series of activities during their stay in Moscow and has now become part and parcel of the IRB JWRT tournament.

"This was great fun for all of us, both visitors and local boys," observed 20-year old centre Agustin Ormaechea, the middle son of Diego Ormaechea, the legendary captain and coach of Los Teros. "It is difficult to say who was more enthusiastic, us or them. In the end, despite the language barrier I think we all became part of the same group. They responded intuitively to our approach and we all had great fun," he added.

Following in family footsteps

The young Ormaechea, who started playing rugby at the age of five at the family club Carrasco Polo in Montevideo, is the third member of the family to reach the international stage after father Diego, who skippered Uruguay at the 1999 RWC in Wales and older brother Juan Diego, who played in the victorious Uruguay team in the inaugural JWRT tournament in Chile in the 2008.

He was mildly quizzical about the opening match against Romania, which, he said, was lost because of a combination of factors, in which emotion and nervousness played a part. "It was the first match and we made too many mistakes, too many handling errors and allowed ourselves to enter a battle of attrition rather than play our own game."

Ormaechea, a hard-tackling, strong running centre is a year one student in Veterinary Medicine, like brother Juan Diego. He would like to pursue a career in rugby as a professional player, but as he acknowledged, his father Diego and mother Veronica would like him to finish first his University degree and become a vet like father Diego and brother Juan Diego.

Best-ever session

After a couple of hours Uruguay assistant coach Francisco Vilaboa had to bring the session to an end, but as he confessed afterwards he would have liked to go on forever. "They were so keen and eager to learn and they are so talented. They grasped the finer points of what we were trying to teach them so quickly. It was amazing!

"I wished I could speak Russian to be able to communicate even better," enthused the 30-year-old former international centre, who asked the young Ormaechea to say a few words on behalf of the Uruguay players at the end. "The coach asked me to say a few words at the end and I told them that for us it was a privilege to work together with them, the future of Russian rugby. It is amazing how much talent exists at Slava and we hoped that one day we will be playing against each other."

Ciprian Bobretsov, the 18-year old captain of the Slava team, confessed: "This was one of the best coaching sessions I have ever attended. It was full of fun and novelty and we learnt so much from it. I really enjoyed it and wished it would never end. We benefitted so much from it. For me personally it was an eye opener."

"This tournament is all about legacy and development for both the participants and the Host Unions," said IRB Tournament Director Philippe Bourdarias. "The Kenyan RFU in 2009 and the Chile Federation the year before hosted the JWRT and used effectively the potential of the tournament. Both ran extensive programmes of activities with kids and schools, involving all participating teams, which gave all of these activities a special flavour, leaving the participants with unforgettable memories."