Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Uruguay coach mystified by Rodrigo Capo Ortega absence ahead of Rugby World Cup

Uruguay coach Pablo Lemoine tells me he has had "no explanation" from star player Rodrigo Capo Ortega about his sudden withdrawal from the national side's squad.

Ortega, 34, pictured below in action for French top-tier side Castres, is Uruguay's longest-serving international and one of its few professionals.

Three weeks ago it emerged that the veteran lock had abruptly retired from international rugby, prompting speculation that his Top 14 employers might have requested him to miss the World Cup in order to avoid the risk of picking up an injury.

With his experience in top-flight professional rugby, Ortega had been viewed as a key figure in Uruguay’s campaign in the ‘Group of Death’ against England, Wales, Australia and Fiji.

But now it looks certain that Pool A’s amateur side will be without him – and head coach Lemoine, speaking to me earlier this month, said he was unclear about  the reasons for the withdrawal.

Lemoine, who became national coach in 2012 having previously won 49 caps, said of his former team-mate’s absence: "There's no explanation. Probably he has some reason, but I don't know.

"I haven't spoken to the player because he made the decision by himself.

"Really, I'm just focused on the players who want to play for our country.”

Castres have been quoted as saying that Ortega won't play for Uruguay due to "personal reasons".

Asked whether Castres might have applied some pressure to their long-serving second-rower, Lemoine said: "I'm not sure about that. I can say nothing.”

The Uruguayan Rugby Union said in a statement on July 1 that Ortega will not play for "family reasons" and in France the insinuations that his employers have leant on him have been rejected on social media.

Uruguay will play two warm-up matches in Japan before opening their World Cup campaign against Wales at the Millennium Stadium.

Kooga are the official kit partner to Uruguay for the 2015 Rugby World Cup

A version of this article first appeared in The Rugby Paper

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