“We can leave this tournament smiling.”
Four defeats out of four, 27 points scored and 215 conceded. On paper it may look like a sporting nightmare, but Rugby World Cup debutants Chile can leave the competition proud of their achievements.
Saturday’s 59-5 defeat by Argentina marked the end of the road at this World Cup, but it is hoped that this will be the start of something special for the South American nation.
“We can leave this tournament smiling and proud of what we have achieved,” said captain Martin Sigren.
“We said at the beginning that we didn’t necessarily come here to get a result on the scoreboard but to be competitive.”
‘We got more positives than negatives out of this’
Chile qualified for their first World Cup by beating the United States 52-51 in a two-legged qualification play-off in July 2022, becoming the first debutants in the competition since Portugal in 2007, which was history in itself.
The highlight on the pitch came when fly-half Rodrigo Fernandez scored the opening try in their first match against Japan to give the 2019 quarter-finalists an early scare.
They also took an early lead against Samoa before falling to a 43-10 defeat, although England proved far too strong for them in a 71-0 loss before they ended their campaign against the Pumas.
However, the goal for head coach Pablo Lemoine was never about results, but putting “Chilean rugby in a better place”.
He added: “I think we got a lot more positives than negatives out of this.
“We have attracted new fans to the team. We have tried to bring Chile up in the world rankings and we have managed to do that.
“We have always spoken about people feeling part of this project from all around Chile and we have achieved that. That is the biggest experience I am taking from this.”
Head coach Lemoine played for Uruguay from 1996-2010, helping them qualify for their first World Cup in 1999.
Uruguay have qualified for every single competition since then, aside from 2007 and 2011, something the 48-year-old believes Chile can take inspiration from and look to emulate.
“We need to believe in the process and take it one step at a time – building a high-performance programme, getting players playing sevens and building that into the programme,” he said.
“We have got a very ambitious plan to build from here and I think I still have two more World Cup cycles in me.
“But it has been amazing to bring people in who are not from a rugby culture.”
Source : BBC