Portugal made their debut at the 2023 Rugby World Cup, and, as ever, the “Lobos” came to show the world some of their skills.
They scratched the surface against Wales, impressing fans and pundits alike with their resilient attitude and witty gameplay, and were able to narrow down the score to a 13-point deficit margin when there were still ten minutes left to play.
Even if the game didn’t end with a win or a losing bonus point, Portuguese fans should be proud of what they saw in the Allianz Riviera - as Patrice Lagisquet was - even if the head coach was a bit frustrated.
“Pride of course, but we knew we would not be disappointing. This is a generous team. Ever since I started coaching them, they have surprised me. This is a team that has a lot of virtues.”
In the post-press-match conference, Tomás Appleton reinforced that Portugal didn’t qualify for the World Cup just to play, as they have set higher goals, and want to compete for wins,
“We didn’t get here just to see others play and sit around… we came to win games, and that’s what we want to do. We trained and prepared hard for the competition, we sacrificed a lot, and we aren’t just going to stop fighting for our first-ever win.”.
Portugal will now face their long-time rivals, Georgia, next Saturday, in what will be a rendition of the 2023 Rugby Europe Championship final, won by the “Lelos” in the beautiful city of Badajoz. The Georgian squad completed a full week of game rest, after their debut in the competition against Australia, and captain Merab Sharikadze looked ahead to Saturday’s clash,
“Portugal will be a serious challenge, especially because they know what to expect from us, but don’t forget that we know them very what to expect from them.”
Lock Lasha Jaiani shared some expectations within the Georgian squad, “Like what happened in the 2020 Autumn Nations Cup, we started slow, but then as the games went on, we analyzed them and learned and things improved a lot. I think it is going to be very similar now. We want to play with more ball in hand, and our focus is to maintain possession, be more calm, and play with our strengths”.
While both sides will meet in Toulouse, Romania now head for a weeks rest, after conceding a second loss in their World Cup campaign at the hands of the World Champions, the Springboks. The “Oaks” had a bad start, and while they were able to slow down South Africa’s attacking efforts, they would lose by 78-0.
Head coach Eugen Apjok assessed what Romania need to work on, “We have to improve and learn from these two games. We won't have enough time to improve everything, but we will do our utmost to get better for these two games.”
Captain Christian Chirica, who played the full 160 minutes in Romania’s World Cup campaign, wasn’t too disheartened with the loss, as it will help boost the team in the future,
“It is very hard to play against teams like South Africa which are very tough and very physical, but we are happy to be here, and we are trying to do our best.”
Romania’s next match will be on the 30th of September when they travel to Lille to face Scotland, and this rest will proof to be pivotal as they have been affected by a couple of injuries, like Taylor Gontineac. The match is scheduled for 9pm, and there will be some expectations as to what the “Oaks” will be able to show in their third game at the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
By Francisco Isaac
Photo by Luis Cabelo