Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition)

Youthful Wales wary of Portugal ‘jackal threats’ ahead of Nice clash


A MUCH-changed Wales will bid to rack up some points and consolidat­e their unbeaten status in World Cup Pool C when they tackle Portugal in Nice today.

Wales coach Warren Gatland admitted that the final 10 minutes of the 32-26 victory over the 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 came in France, in 2007, would set Wales up nicely for their September 24 showdown with Australia in Lyon before ending 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 Rugby World Cup,” said veteran flank 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 winger 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!”

 ?? ?? WALES’ Louis Rees-Zammit celebrates scoring a try against Fiji last week. | EPA
WALES’ Louis Rees-Zammit celebrates scoring a try against Fiji last week. | EPA

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