By Frankie Deges
Chile is ready to host some of the best young talent in Temuco for the sixth IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy, which takes place from 28 May to 9 June.
The Chile Under 20 team has worked very hard to ensure they are up to the task playing at home in front of what promises to be a very supportive crowd. Captain Sergio Bascuñán admits that despite the pressure, the team’s goal is to go game by game.
“We are not looking beyond the opening round against Portugal,” admitted Bascuñán after finishing a long day that included training and attending courses as a second year Commercial Engineer student at the Adolfo Ibáñez University.
“The team goals are to finish higher than our fifth place in last year’s Trophy in Salt Lake City.”
Bascuñán is one of nine players returning for a second stint in a tournament that will pitch the hosts against newcomers Portugal, former winners Italy – who were relegated from the IRB Junior World Championship last year – and Namibia.
Handling the pressure
“We know every game will be hard and won’t look ahead of each individual match. Having said that, if we can be champions we’ll be delighted, but we must have our feet on the ground.”
As a second year veteran, he fully understands the nature of the tournament and the strength of the opposition. Last year Chile won two and lost two, yet displayed positive rugby throughout. Bascuñán played in all four matches, starting against Tonga.
“What surprised me most was the professionalism of every team,” admitted the scrum half, known to his teammates as Checho.
“This year’s Chilean squad has better individual players than last year. We have a good idea of how we want to play. We have a solid pack, good loose forwards, and backs that can play, with two big centres.
“We will be highly motivated as we are playing in our country with our own supporters in a city that has already been very supportive of Los Cóndores when they played Brazil in the RWC 2015 qualifying round three weeks ago.
“Given that none of the team is from Temuco it will feel as if we are on tour and only focused on playing the game. We must learn how to handle pressure.”
Coached by national coach Omar Turcumán, with Raúl Marín and the very experienced Rodrigo Boyé – a veteran of three tournaments – the Chile squad understand how important the JWRT can be in terms of their future rugby careers.
“We don’t talk too much about it amongst ourselves, although we fully understand how important playing for the Under 20s is in our international pathway,” added Bascuñán, who has already represented Chile Sevens in two tournaments in neighbouring Argentina. “After the Trophy it will up to us and how much we work to become Cóndores.”
Bascuñán, a third generation of his family with the same name, made his senior debut for the Old Macks club last year and has a solid rugby pedigree. His grandfather played flanker for Chile in the early 1960s and was Federación de Rugby de Chile (FERUCHI) President between 1980 and 1982. He was also Chile’s representative when the Confederación Sudamericano de Rugby (CONSUR) was founded in 1989.
His father, also a scrum half, played for the Naval Academy in his younger days and retired at the age of 45 playing for Old Navy, a second division club. His brother Juan Cristóbal also wears the number nine jersey for his school’s Under 12 team and they will all be travelling from Reñaca to support the Chile team in Temuco.
Bascuñán has a welcoming message for the seven visiting teams. “I really hope they enjoy visiting Chile. It is a great country and they will be well received. This will be a very tough Trophy but I hope everybody returns with good memories from their days in my country.”
By Frankie Deges