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Paraguayan rugby this week announced the hiring of former Jaguares coach Raúl 'Aspirina' Pérez as new head coach of its Yacarés. He will not have to wait long to see his team in action as, on Sunday, Paraguay will take the field against México in the first round of the Americas Rugby Challenge.
The Americas Rugby-organised tournament is for continental Tier 2 teams, a step below the successful Americas Rugby Championship, and will also include Guyana and host nation Colombia.
"We have been preparing for the Americas Rugby Challenge more mentally than physically even though we've had tough training sessions; the goal set by the squad is to respect the shirt, be humble and disciplined. From there, we'll be able to build the playing side," explained experienced back Sergio Alvarenga.
"Being able to compete internationally is welcomed, and for Paraguay, the goal is to have the best possible performance," continued the Asunción Rugby Club player. "We know, and believe, we will be the candidates to win this first tournament. So, the goal is to win (on Sunday) and start preparing for the challenges that lay ahead."
Coach Pérez will run the rule over his players at a training session and practice game this weekend before finalising his squad. "We've been working well, trying to give our rugby some fluidity and we have the basic skills as key weapons. I think a lot can be expected from this team," a confident Alvarenga stated.
Paraguay have already played, and beaten, Colombia, but are yet to face either Mexico or Guyana.
“We are expecting tough games; we know they are teams in developmental stages which means that they will all be tough and the standard high," Alvarenga continued.
Confirmation that the well-regarded Pérez will lead the team is most welcomed by those in Paraguayan rugby, Alvarenga included. "It's great to have a first-class coaching set-up. It is a privilege to be part of a team lead by someone who knows so much. It will help us enormously and this kind of opportunities don't happen too often," the 28-year-old Luque-born fly-half said.
Following Sunday's opener against Mexico, Paraguay will then play against Guyana on Wednesday 29 August and will close their Americas Rugby Challenge campaign against the home team, Colombia, on 1 September.