Raffaele Storti will still be eligible for the World Rugby U20 Championship in Italy in 2020 and, should Portugal qualify, defences of the world's best age-grade teams will have to be on red alert.
Continuing his good form from the Portuguese domestic season with Clube de Rugby do Técnico in Lisbon, Storti is the top scorer in the World Rugby U20 Trophy 2019 in Brazil with seven tries in three matches – many of them spectacular individual efforts – to put Os Lobitos 80 minutes away from promotion to the top-tier tournament for the first time.
"I’m very happy about my performances so far, however, the most important thing is the team’s performance and we’ve been doing great which makes us proud," the university student told World Rugby.
Unlike in 2017 when Portugal scrapped their way to the U20 Trophy final following a series of narrow wins, Storti's sparkling form has helped Os Lobitos reach this year's showpiece in style with handsome victories against Hong Kong (59-27), Canada (49-21) and Tonga (40-3).
Japan stand in the way of Portugal achieving their goal on Sunday and the six-time finalists won 14-3 when the sides met in the rain-affected showpiece in the Uruguayan capital Montevideo two years ago, but Storti is hopeful they can overturn that result.
"We know Japan are a very good team and they are favourites because they were in the Championship last year, however, we believe we can surprise them as we’ve been doing well so far in this tournament," he said.
"I think we’ve kept to the plan our coach set out for each individual game. Now we’ll need to study Japan to know in which areas we need to improve on."
Japan showed weaknesses in their 48-34 win against Kenya on Wednesday, struggling to put the African side away until the final 15 minutes.
Storti, though,does not read too much into the result.
"Every game is different and we are aware of Japan's qualities," said Storti, who played for Portugal on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in Hong Kong this April.
The key to unlocking Japan's defence and unleashing the threat Storti possesses lies with influential fly-half Jerónimo Portela, scorer of 44 points and the creator of many of Portugal's best attacking moments at the Estadio Martins Pereira in São Jose dos Campos.
"He is definitely an important player in our team. He brings intelligence combined with a very good kicking game. We grew up together in and outside rugby which makes us have good chemistry."
The vast majority of the squad – 22 of the 26 players – that reached the Trophy final in 2017 have since graduated to the test arena and Storti says that is a source of inspiration for the current group as they bid to make history and earn a place in the U20 Championship, replacing Scotland who were relegated from the elite tier in Argentina last month.
"It was an historic achievement and it gives us great motivation knowing that those players are watching our games.
"Playing against the top-class players in the Championship would be a dream come true."
The final round of matches in the U20 Trophy on Sunday will again be streamed on the tournament website, although fans in Brazil can watch their matches on Band Sports who are also streaming the action in the host country
Photo: Brasil Rugby / FotoJump