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Gonzalo and Alba Vinuesa, the Spanish quarry competing to go to a rugby World Cup

When the brothers Gonzalo and Alba Vinuesa meet, after days without seeing each other, they greet each other with a look and a nod. Minutes later, passing the ball, they are relaxed. And when the photographer Alberto di Lolli asks the one to elevate her in an exaggerated tackle, the laughs compose an image that does not reflect so much the toughness of their sport as the joy of those who have worked long-term and enjoy this moment.

Gonzalo is younger but more veteran in rugby. He is 19 years old and has been playing since the age of five, although until the age of 14 he also played football and basketball. It makes one that he entered the orbit of the senior team, with which he has played four games. Alba is 21 but jumped from the basket to the oval ball only four ago. Last month I won the European Championship with the Leon, with which it has aligned itself half a dozen times.

The brief date for photos takes place after the last training of the men’s team before leaving for Portugal, where This Saturday another qualifying match for the 2023 World Cup in France is playing (16:00 GolTV). Vinuesa does not travel to Lisbon but he is a regular in the concentrations and played the final minutes of the match against the demanding Georgia. He has been trained in the lower categories of Complutense Cisneros, where his father is a sports director. He introduced them to rugby when he led the first team; under the influence of their mother they had started in basketball.

Hours later, Gonzalo describes by phone as “a very bad blow” the defeat – last Saturday – in Romanian of the Lions but he is convinced that they will overcome it. They have lost the first two games by a tight margin. “This is a long-distance race, there are eight games left, nothing is finished,” he says. Six teams compete for two direct places and a third for a play-off.

From Portugal, a youth team, highlights that “in three quarters they are very fast, unbalanced, have good fixed formations and can create problems for you from any part of the field.” In front of them, Gonzalo Vinuesa considers, Spain should display “a solid defense, enviable maul and offensive play that no other team has.” But this last factor has so far appeared little.

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Looking at the World Cup is Alba, who has suffered with the Leon the postponement of the match against Ireland that could make way for New Zealand 2021. The tournament and the qualifying rounds have been postponed due to the pandemic. “We were at our highest peak, we would have won, but we will prepare it just as well in August and, in September, to show that we want that place,” he says.

Define the style of the Lionesses as “very open, very varied, continuous”, developed from “a super agile front and a very fast line and very deft with the hands“. Alba joined the selection of Jos Antonio Barrio Anvil in the renewal of the team after the 2017 World Cup. He had barely been in rugby for a year and a half. Only four years ago he quit basketball, where he played forward, because he felt he “needed a change.” His father encouraged him to try a Cisneros senior team training.

“I liked the game, the fellowship, I had fun, I felt very comfortable,” she recalls. He began to learn. The rules and the skills. To get rid of fear. “With the first blows you wake up.” Super one year stopped for a hip injury. Today she is international and captain – “an honor” – of a team that fights for the Iberdrola League.

Gonzalo also speaks of “honor” and “pride” when citing his first match in the highest national category. “I did not expect to start in the first team. I was in a concentration with the U-20 team, the coach calls me and says ‘you are starting against Alcobendas’. Debuting at the Central Stadium with my fans was crazy.” He was 18 years old and as a rival, in his same position, to the experienced New Zealander Brad Linklater, now a partner in the Lions.

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Gonzalo and Alba Vinuesa, players of the Spanish rugby teamsAlberto di LolliTHE WORLD

Complutense Cisneros won that day against the odds with Vinuesa playing as the opening medium, the one in charge of directing the attack when the ball left the lead. A position of great responsibility that in many clubs are usually held by foreign professional players. “I have had to gain a lot of weight, to improve with my feet, but the most important thing is the mental issue. Any opening has to know how to handle the games and the game situation“he explains about his adaptation to the Division of Honor.

This season, with his team in the temperate zone of the League, he feels at ease in the “great atmosphere” of the Santiago Santos national team. Although the coach is betting on veterans in the most committed matches, Gonzalo is grateful for welcoming “all the kids”, some of whom are twice his age. “I only learn from them and, what can be contributed, is contributed.”

In a hypothetical Vinuesa team, he would give the ball to her, which she can form as a center, a crucial position in attack and defense in the open field, or as a wing, to gallop towards the trial. Scored four in the last game of the Leon. For her, Gonzalo is “self-demanding and with enjoyment, she is always going to have a good time, she doesn’t think twice.” He says of his sister that she is “very versatile, a very great player to whom basketball has contributed a lot”, a sport from which they got “vision of game and hands.” The family formation is completed with a third sister dedicated to basketball and a fourth, rugby Under-14, who threatens Gonzalo with taking his post when he rises to senior.

More than competition, he acknowledges “some waver, good vibes” about the number of caps. “After the games he comes and says things to correct me, but also jokes; I laugh at them and try to learn,” she ends up confessing.

In an increasingly professional rugby, they find themselves in an environment of high competition that supports them even if it does not allow them exclusive dedication. They invest a lot of time and a lot of time is ahead of them. Given their youth, they could go to the next World Cup and even to the next two … if Spain qualifies. “Playing it is a dream, we have been preparing for four years and we have to go,” says Alba about the Leon.

“I want to take my club to the top and take Spain to a World Cup”, Gonzalo agrees. Look up and down. “To continue with our feet on the ground, not to lose the north, to know where I come from, what I have I have worked for, I am not a star, I am a club player”. He praises “humility”; her, the dedication of “the volunteers” who in Cisneros – and in the vast majority of Spanish clubs – make possible the training of young people.

“At home, not just sports, be careful with studies”, Alba smiles. Physiotherapy course; Gonzalo, Architecture. Any advance towards professional rugby goes through continuing their careers. The club, the workouts, gym sessions, week-long concentrations with the national team and many trips. “In the end, you learn to manage your time.”

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