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08 Sep 2007 10:19
World Cup debutants Portugal are looking to emerge with more than their dignity intact when they take on Scotland in their opening Pool C match on Sunday.
For “Os Lobos” (the wolves), the aim of both their first three pool matches against the Scots, New Zealand and Italy is to ensure they retain enough physical and mental resources to confront Romania in their only winnable game.
“The real shame about the World Cup is that we play Romania last,” coach Tomaz Morais told Reuters. “We really wanted to play them in our second game because that is the game we have targeted to win.
“The problem is the games against Scotland, New Zealand and Italy will take a huge toll on our players and that is going to make it very difficult.”
Portugal’s protracted World Cup qualifying campaign came to a victorious conclusion back in March with a 24-23 aggregate win over Uruguay and their mere presence in the tournament is a huge achievement.
The team, made up almost exclusively of amateur players from the Portuguese league, are ranked below non-qualifiers such as Russia and Uruguay and they know a baptism of fire awaits them when they meet the Scots in St Etienne.
“We know we will be playing a very physical team in Scotland, but we have to play our own game and keep them on the move,” said Morais.
“We aren’t going to change our style because we have to play to our strengths.”
Scotland, on the other hand, are looking to make a flying start after showing renewed promise in last month’s warm-up games against Ireland and South Africa.
A 31-21 victory over the Irish helped erase some of the memories of a Six Nations wooden spoon.
And although there were some disappointing defensive lapses in their 27-3 defeat to South Africa, Frank Hadden’s side did manage to hold a powerful Springboks side in the second half and will be looking to build on that performance ahead of their decisive pool match against Italy.
“We’re ready to hit the ground running in France starting with a big bang against Portugal on Sunday,” scrumhalf Rory Lawson told the World Cup website.
“We have just come off a great pre-season.
Flanker John Barclay agreed with his teammate’s analysis. “Physically, I think we are the best prepared Scottish team to play in a Rugby World Cup,” he said.
“Italy will be the crunch match for us but hopefully we will build momentum against Portugal and Romania.” - Reuters
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