Portugal are a country madly in love with rugby, and they have been desperate to see their national team, known as Os Lobos, qualify for another Rugby World Cup after appearing at the 2007 edition of the tournament (also ironically held in France).

This year, those dreams have finally come true, with Portugal sealing their place in the finals after beating the USA in the final qualification tournament in Dubai last November, and there promises to be a high number of Portuguese fans swarming on France as they look to not waste the opportunity of witnessing their team at a major rugby tournament.

There will be no pressure on them to win games, with them unfamiliar with the calibre of the vast majority of opponents that they will face, and yet the players will know that this is an opportunity to show the world what Portuguese rugby is about and why its entertaining and exciting nature makes them worth watching.

Head Coach

Since 2019, Os Lobos have been led by former France winger Patrice Lagisquet, and there is little doubting that he has had a huge impact on the team and their rise up the pyramid.

Since his appointment, it has always been clear that he wants the team to play a fast-paced brand of rugby that sees them mirror some of the flair that France showed back in the 1980s when he was on the field, and this has worked well because the Portuguese squad have spoken publicly about their desire to attack and to take matters into their own hands, and so they share the vision that their coach has.

Attacking play

When they have the ball, Portugal are one of the most exhilarating teams to watch, because, for them, it is all about being expansive and using the full width of the pitch to create chances, and it is not abnormal to see them switch play from wing to wing several times during the same sequence of play as they try to stretch opponents out and look for ways through them.

It is not only about passing though, because Os Lobos do also love to run with the ball when the opportunity arises for them to do so, and the backs are an integral part of this as they are the ones tasked with breaking through lines and eating up territory, and there is little doubt that the team’s growth and transformation into one of the Rugby Europe Championship’s hardest teams to contain is down to their ability to always be positive in possession.

Defensive play

It is not all about attacking though, because Portugal have also worked hard on their defensive play, with them wanting to remain steadfast and strong whenever they don’t have the ball and to never make it easy for their opponents to score against them.

Some of their first and second phase defending has really stood out as they have tried to limit the damage that their opponents can do, but this is perhaps the area of their play that they will need to pay the most attention to during the build-up to and at the World Cup. Teams new to the environment have a tendency to try and play with flair as they make the most of the opportunity, but forget the basics of what wins games and keeps opponents out, and that does come back to bite them when playing more established World Cup names who take full advantage of mistakes.

Key players

There are several important players to mention who could have an impact on Portugal’s performances, with winger Raffaele Storti a quick runner who always offers a goal threat, Samuel Marques a reliable scrum-half who rarely loses his nerve when kicking for the posts, and Nuno Sousa Guedes offering a lot in attack and defence from full-back and who will constantly organise those around him.

However, the player who is, according to reports from teammates, the first to demand focus and the last to leave after team meals is captain and centre Tomás Appleton, and it is clear when watching Portugal that he is the glue that keeps the whole squad together. His ability to run with the ball is a key part of Portugal’s overall attacking tactics, but what he really thrives in is reading the game and seeing spaces before others do, and that means that he can constantly ensure that the ball ends up where Os Lobos can utilise it best.

Tournament prediction

Given that this is their first appearance in the finals in 16 years, and that none of the 2007 squad are still playing for the national team, it is tricky to see Portugal doing well when it comes to picking up results, and a finish at the bottom of their pool does seem probable.

However, that does not mean that they will not give it their all and will not play well, and they will undoubtedly be buoyed by the fact that Pool C, which also contains Australia, Wales, Fiji and Georgia, is very open and every team has a chance of going through to the knockouts if they can pick up the necessary results.

They have stated that their aim is to finish in the top three of this pool, as that would see them qualify for the 2027 edition, and that is not as wild a target as some might imagine.