Brazil have never competed at the tournament, whilst Portugal were in France the last time the country hosted the Rugby World Cup in 2007.

Frederico Sousa, a Portuguese inside-centre during that tournament, has since gone on to become the country’s national coach, and is now Portugal’s Director of Rugby, and has every ambition of taking the team back there once more.

“Our goal is simple: qualify for RWC,” he says ahead of two key warm-up games after a long season disrupted by COVID-19.

“Our short term goals are to have two good games, solidify our World Rugby Ranking position (currently 21st) and be ready for the games in February and March.”

The 42-year old, who played the last of his 47 caps in France 2007, knows very well what playing in a Rugby World Cup means.

“It is the goal of all the rugby community in Portugal as it would generate more sponsors, media attention, growth in player numbers.”

Avoid Plan B

Getting there, of course, is no mean feat. “We want to qualify directly, which is much easier than Plan B, which is the longer route,” he explains. 

Portugal and Brazil collide as both teams aim for Rugby World Cup 2023.

That was the route Portugal took to France fourteen years ago. To avoid it, they will have to overcome the threats of experienced teams such as Georgia, Romania and Spain.

Before that comes the two tests against Os Tupis, against whom they lost the last time they met, 26-24 in São Paulo, last year. They are currently tied, with two wins apiece.

The Portuguese squad under former French international Patrice Lagisquet has a good blend of young and experienced players. Recent World Rugby U20 Trophies have produced promising players, amongst them FC Grenoble lock José Madeira and several others plying their trade in France. 

“The U20s have showed us that we can be competitive and dream of Rugby World Cup,” Sousa says. “This test window is very important to consolidate the team and gain experience. The motivation for us is huge.”

Rugby World Cup on the horizon

For Brazil, this series is also of major significance ahead of the qualifying process, still to be announced, for Sudamérica Rugby.

Though Brazil lost their three matches in the recent Sudamericano 4 Naciones – against Uruguay XV 25-17, Argentina XV 40-15 and Chile XV 26-16 – in non-capped games, it gave head coach Fernando Portugal the luxury of trying new, young players, slowly introducing them to test-standard rugby.

With only one game played by Corinthians, the Brazilian franchise in the Superliga Americana de Rugby, in all of 2020, “the Sudamericano 4 Naciones gave us much needed game time; we had flexibility in subbing players and we gave some new players opportunities to show us their talent,” says Portugal.

Now, against Portugal, the stakes are higher. “These are official test-matches and we need to construct our game plan. Younger players have gained their experience and know that anything is possible.”

“We have built a good team spirit, learnt from our mistakes in the Sudamericano,” adds captain Felipe Sancery ahead of the two games. “Now we must be calm and take the right decisions.”

Watch it live

Both games, with kick-off at 3pm (GMT) on 21 November and 28 November, will be broadcast live and available worldwide through Rugby TV, the Federaçao Portuguesa de Rugby’s own channel, and Sudamérica Rugby’s official app (available on Google Play and Apple Store).