With just four full professionals in their squad and a few semi-pros playing in Italy, Uruguay train like professionals but most of their players have the added burden of needing to earn a living from a parallel career.
Their most-capped player, flanker Diego Magno, is due to make his 50th international appearance against Wales at the Cardiff Millennium Stadium, yet the 26-year-old’s day-to-day concerns are split between wearing the mineral blue shirt of Los Teros and running the specialist internet digital agency he set up in Montevideo in 2007.
“My company is my living and rugby is my life,” he says simply. “I have been playing since I was eight years old. I have to combine my responsibilities to my company and to my rugby while trying to give my maximum to both.”
Like most company directors, Magno tries not to sweat the small stuff – especially when on international duty - but at the back of his mind there are always nagging thoughts. How satisfied are his clients? How happy and motivated are his staff?
His company, Solcre Technical Solutions, needs to keep ahead of the competition, and that takes concentration. How is cash flow? Where is the next deal coming from? He has to be as adept at marketing plans and web analytics as he is game plans and line out tactics.
“How do I combine rugby with my company? I have the best business partner in the world,” he laughs. “That is the only way I can be here! That is the truth. He is also a rugby player, and we share the values of sport in our business: planning, commitment, moving forward, compromise.
“But it is always tough for me and a World Cup year takes it to a different level. My focus on rugby has had to be very concentrated.”
No member of the current Uruguay squad has any World Cup experience. After qualifying in 1999 and 2003, Los Teros failed to make the final cut in the last two tournaments. When they go up against England in Manchester on October 10, Magno admits he will be filled with nervous emotion, but purely from the honour of the occasion, not with the self-consciousness of a minnow.
“Against the host nation my legs will shake,” he says. “Against Wales, too, I am expecting to feel great emotion surrounding the game. We will have to deal with the pressure of the occasion.
“But these games are a unique opportunity for Uruguay. We will show our pride in being amateur rugby union players determined to play well against the best in the world.”
After the official Welcome Ceremony at Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff, did he wonder amid the hype what on earth he, an advertising and marketing analyst, was doing here?
“No! It is a dream to be here, of course, but we train like professionals,” he explains. “Our commitment is the same. We just don’t get paid. We are dedicated to rugby because it is a passion.
“I have to work to keep my company going, to earn a living, but I play because I love the game. The other countries have technically very skilled players, but we amateurs have the passion. That’s the difference.”
As with many families in Uruguay culture, rugby is engrained in the Magno household. Diego’s Italian father - who has travelled with the Uruguay rugby union delegation to support the team – played for the prestigious L’Aquila club in Abruzzo, Italy. He encouraged his son to play from an early age and Diego has never stopped wanting to improve.
“My level of commitment has to be on a level with the professionals,” he says. “Our mission is to keep going to improve the level of rugby in Uruguay, to encourage more participation and inspire young people.
“I don’t play for statistics. I don’t even know the number of caps I have won. I’ve seen 48 attributed to me and 49. All I know is I am here, and I have been a member of the Uruguay set up since 2008.”
With odds of 5,000-1 to win, Magno acknowledges with more than a touch of understatement that the tournament will be very tough for Uruguay. In the so-called ‘pool of death’, Pablo Lemoine’s men are up against former champions Australia and England, former semi-finalists Wales and the ever-dangerous Fiji.
“We will try to do our best,” he says. “Each player will give his 100 percent to playing their best rugby. We are all simply proud to be representing Uruguay. It will be extremely emotional. A dream.”
Predicted to be on the wrong end of a few big-margin results in Pool A, at least Magno and his team-mates will have one advantage when they fly home: they have other day jobs on which to focus as well as playing, and enjoying, their rugby.