Portgual on crest of a wave
28 MARCH 2007
The champagne is gone, the port drunk dry. Even the hangovers don't last long, washed away by that warm glowing feeling that comes with the sudden reminder that something very good has happened.
Portugal's players and coaching staff have arrived here in Hong Kong with confidence soaring. This year, for the first time, they will compete at the Rugby World Cup.
Only last Saturday Juan Severino was packing down against the might of the Teros pack, while Diogo Mateus, Diogo Gama and Pedro Leal were steeling themselves in the backs for the game of their lives. Today all four, plus Francisco Mira who started on the bench in Montevideo, are Sevens players again and preparing to take on the world's best at the Hong Kong Stadium on Friday.
At the root of the country's success is remarkable young coach Tomaz Morais but, far from putting his feet up and basking in the glory of qualification, he too faces a whole new set of hurdles.
"It is a wonderful achievement for a group of players and officials that made a huge effort," said Morais.
"My wife and children know how hard it has been and that in all these years not one day has gone by when I didn’t think of the World Cup.”
Morais and his players landed back in Portugal on Monday and later that day he and a new group - including the five victorious fifteen-a-side warriors - took off for Hong Kong.
"It is a lot to ask of these players after what happened at the weekend but I know they are up to it," Morais said.
"The achievement at the weekend was the biggest ever moment for our rugby. Beating Uruguay to reach France was like winning the World Cup."
This has been Portugal's maiden season as a 'core' team on the IRB Sevens World Series, meaning that they play in all eight events. No series points were garnered from the first half of the season but, with confidence at an all time high, that could be set to change this weekend.
Portugal squad: Tiago Girão, Pedro Cabral, Gonçalo Foro (CDUL); Diogo Mateus (Munster Rugby); Juan Severino, Diogo Coelho, Francisco Mira (AEIS Agronomia); Pedro Leal, António Aguilar (GD Direito); Diogo Gama (SL Benfica); João Mirra, Pedro Silva (CF Belenenses)