Wales v Portugal - teams and prediction
WORLD CUP, ROUND TWO: A much-changed Wales will bid to rack up some points and consolidate their unbeaten status in World Cup Pool C when they take on Portugal in Nice on Saturday.
Wales coach Warren Gatland admitted that the final 10 minutes of the thrilling 32-26 victory of the much-vaunted Fijians were excruciating to watch on the back of some “dumb decisions” that let the South Sea Islanders back into the game.
But a win is a win and especially in a pool that also contains Australia and Georgia, two teams that beat Wales in the November internationals.
A win against Portugal, whose sole World Cup appearance also came in France, in 2007, would set Wales up nicely for their September 24 showdown with Australia in Lyon before wrapping up group play against Georgia in Nantes on October 7.
But one old head in the Welsh set-up, with just wing Louis Rees-Zammit and No.8 Taulupe Faletau retained from that Fiji game, warned against complacency.
“You have to respect every team you play at a World Cup,” said veteran flanker Dan Lydiate, set to make his 10th World Cup appearance in his third tournament.
“Portugal didn’t play last week so they will be chomping at the bit to get stuck into us.”
Gatland made 13 changes to the side that beat Fiji, packing the team for Nice with a host of youngsters.
“The enthusiasm they bring and their work ethic are brilliant,” Lydiate said of the younger players.
“There will be a lot of nerves for these boys but excitement as well. They have got massive futures ahead of them.
“The advice I’d give them is try to enjoy it as sometimes you get so focused on doing your job, you don’t always get the chance to appreciate where you are.”
Jonathan Thomas, contact area coach for Wales, said Portugal – with seven of the starting XV aged 30 and over – had “some good athletes, some jackal threats”.
“We’ve got complete and utter faith in our whole squad,” Thomas said of the team chosen to negate those threats.
“It is a six-day turnaround, so it makes sense to make a few changes with the nature of the game we’ve just played.”
Portugal coach Patrice Lagisquet has plumped for experience for the Wales game, with 13 of his starting XV playing club rugby in France.
Only one of those, however, plies their trade in the Top 14: hooker Mike Tadjer with Perpignan.
“We know we won’t win the World Cup!” the 34-year-old told AFP, crediting former France wing and Biarritz coach Lagisquet with introducing a welcome dose of professionalism.
“But we’re not here just to concede 60 points every game nor just to sing the national anthem.
“It’s been four-and-a-half years since Patrice has been at the helm, leading this project which means so much to him. We were nothing, playing in the European third division against Moldova, when he arrived.”
While rugby remains a minority sport in Portugal, Tadjer – born in France to a Portuguese father and Syrian mother – admitted that their presence in the World Cup had offered them a share of the spotlight.
“It’s all about football in Portugal,” he said. “But we got a message from Cristiano Ronaldo, that was nice!”
@rugby365com: Wales by 30 points.
Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny; 14 Louis Rees Zammit, 13 Mason Grady, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Rio Dyer; 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Tomos Williams; 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Tommy Reffell, 6 Dan Lydiate; 5 Dafydd Jenkins,48 Christ Tshiunza; 3 Dillon Lewis, 2 Dewi Lake (captain), 1 Nicky Smith.
Replacements: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Corey Domachowski, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Adam Beard, 20 Taine Basham, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Sam Costelow, 23 Josh Adams.
Portugal: 15 Nuno Sousa Guedes, 14 Vincent Pinto, 13 Jose Lima, 12 Tomas Appleton (captain), 11 Rodrigo Marta, 10 Jeronimo Portela, 9 Samuel Marques, 8 Rafael Simoes, 7 Nicolas Martins, 6 Joao Granate, 5 Steevy Cerqueira, 4 José Madeira, 3 Anthony Alves, 2 Mike Tadjer, 1 Francisco Fernandes
Replacements: 16 Raffaele Storti, 17 Joris Moura, 18 Pedro Lucas, 19 David Wallis, 20 Martim Belo, 21 Diogo Hasse Ferreira, 22 Lionel Campergue, 23 David Costa
Date: Saturday, September 16
Venue: Stade de Nice, Nice
Kick-off: 17.45 (15.45 GMT, 16.45 UK & Ireland time; 16.45 WEST)
Referee: Karl Dickson (England)
Assistant Referees: Luke Pearce (England), Andrea Piardi (France)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)