Chile XV or family game

LThe emergence of rugby in Chile has been gradual over the years. His national team achieved a great feat by qualifying for the World Cup, a first and a milestone for Chilean and South American rugby.

The development of this sport really began in 2019, when the first “professional” club in the country was created in Santiago: Selknam Rugby. Its name is a tribute to the Selknam Indian people, originally from Patagonia.

The club participates in the Súper Rugby Américas competition, which brings together the continent’s best professional teams and has given a boost to South American rugby. Selknam quickly established itself among the top professional teams in South America.

In 2022, the team reached the final of the championship, which is an excellent performance for such a recent composition. “With the start of professionalization, my teammates who play in the country are training a lot more and playing a lot of matches against great teams. It helps us progress,” explains Iñaki Ayarza, a Chilean international who now plays for Angoulême. Despite a more difficult 2023 season created by new Argentine franchises, 30 of the 33 players selected for this World Cup are from Selknam.

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Chilean rugby owes a lot to… the Uruguayan. Pablo Lemoine was one of the pillars of the great Stade Français adventure with three French championship titles in the 2000s. “He is a legend for us, thanks to him we qualified,” adds Iñaki Ayarza. After becoming a coach, he had already accomplished the feat of taking Uruguay to the World Cup in 2015. In 2019, he put his experience to good use for Selknam Rugby, of which he took over the reins. Two years later, he became the coach of the Chilean national team.

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Four siblings in the team

There are three Chileans playing in Europe: captain Martin Sigren, third row Doncaster Knights (English D2), Matias Dittus Périgueux (Nationale 1) and Iñaki Ayarza Soyaux Angoulême (Pro D2). The rest are mostly semi-professional players who play in Chile and are paid around 400 euros. “Most of the players are juggling rugby and studies, while others have finished their studies and decided to take a break from their professional career just to play rugby and take part in this World Cup,” says the Angouleme player. These players share a deep passion for rugby and a strong friendship.

Most players juggle rugby and studies, while others have completed their studies and decided to take a break from their professional careers just to play rugby.

A family was built around coach Pablo Lemoin. “We all know each other, I know each other’s families, we grew up together and we are ready to die for each of our own. There are 4 siblings in the team, so yes, we can talk about family (laughs),” continues the player.

“Since we qualified for this World Cup, there’s been a buzz around us, it’s incredible that we have two or three times as many Chileans following us. Our matches are televised, we have a lot of interviews, it’s incredible. We hope this World Cup will be just the first step towards the development of rugby in our country. We want young people to want to play rugby, we are on a mission here in France,” he says excitedly.

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“Los Cóndores” chose the town of Perros-Guirec in Côtes-d’Armor as their base camp. “We are so proud to welcome Chile, we felt a real harmony between the players and the population during the opening ceremony. They chose our city to find exactly this closeness that they know in their country. We have the same values ​​and it shows. »


Georgie Collins

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