Wales survived a dramatic Fiji fightback in Bordeaux last Sunday, as a Semi Radradra knock-on in the dying seconds with the try-line beckoning stopped the Pacific Islanders in their tracks, after they had pulled the score back from 32-14 with 13 minutes to go, to 32-26 with 90 seconds to go.
Still, it’s five points already in the bag for Warren Gatland’s side as they head into their second match of the tournament, against a side eight places further down the World Rugby Men’s Rankings powered by Capgemini and making their first appearance in a Rugby World Cup since the last time it was held in France.
Gatland has made 13 changes to the team because of the six-day turnaround at the start of a long competition - and expects his side to have learned from the last 15 minutes of Sunday's thriller.
FIXTURE: Wales v Portugal
GROUND: Stade de Nice (35,983)
KICK-OFF: 17:45 local time (GMT+2)
Portugal and Wales have never played one another in the professional era. Their only previous encounter came in 1994, in Lisbon, when Wales won 102-11 during qualifying for the 1995 tournament.
At the time, it was Portugal’s heaviest defeat and still ranks third behind a 92-0 loss to Romania and the 108-13 defeat to the All Blacks at Rugby World Cup 2007. But they’ve come a long way since then…
Unsurprisingly, the Os Lobos class of RWC 2007 are long retired, so Rugby World Cup 2023 will be a new experience for the entire Portugal squad. But they should hold on to memories of their previous campaign - and assistant coach Luis Pissarra, who was in the squad back then, will be sure to mention it.
That scoreline in the New Zealand match in Pool C in Lyon gives the appearance of one-way traffic. It wasn’t. Portugal were always determined and occasionally brilliant, giving their illustrious opponents more than one scare. In the same tournament, too, they pushed Romania all the way… Wales will be well advised to stay vigilant.
KEY TALKING POINT
It’s time to talk about how far Portugal have come in the years since their last Rugby World Cup appearance. Today, they play in the Rugby Europe Championship, where they routinely give even next Pool C rivals Georgia a run for their money. That match, on 23 September, should be a real humdinger.
It’s easy to imagine a second bonus-point win for Wales in Nice, but it’s also easy to imagine that the Six Nations side won’t necessarily have it all their own way against an up-and-coming Portugal determined to prove a point on their first appearance at Rugby World Cup 2023.
Dewi Lake v Mike Tadjer. Some 10 years and a sackful of match experience separate the two hookers going head to head in the scrums in Nice. Lake is one of the rising stars of the Welsh game, while Tadjer has announced his professional retirement after RWC 2023, and will play Federale 3 rugby in France once his tournament ends. Will young talent win over age and experience, or will the older player's nous tell? Members of the front row club - your pre-match topic of discussion…
Wales set a new Rugby World Cup tackle record last weekend, putting in 253 tackles against Fiji in Bordeaux, the most by any team in the opening round - and a new Rugby World Cup record.
It was the sixth time in the tournament’s history a team completed 200 tackles in a match, and comfortably beat the previous record of 218 by Georgia against Australia in 2019.
Unsurprisingly Welsh players also topped the individual tackle stats: second-row Will Rowlands made 27, prop Gareth Thomas 23 and captain Jac Morgan led from the front with 20.
Karl Dickson (England). The brother of former England scrum-half Lee Dickson was a talented professional player in his own right before picking up the whistle - racking up 167 appearances in eight seasons at Harlequins.
WALES Leigh Halfpenny; Louis Rees-Zammit, Mason Grady, Johnny Williams, Rio Dyer; Gareth Anscombe, Tomos Williams; Nicky Smith, Dewi Lake (captain), Dillon Lewis; Christ Tshiunza, Dafydd Jenkins; Dan Lydiate, Tommy Reffell, Taulupe Faletau
Replacements: Ryan Elias, Corey Domachowski, Tomas Francis, Adam Beard, Taine Basham, Gareth Davies, Sam Costelow, Josh Adams,
PORTUGAL Nuno Sousa Guedes; Vincent Pinto, José Lima, Tomás Appleton (captain), Rodrigo Marta; Jerónimo Portela, Samuel Marques; Francisco Fernandes, Mike Tadjer, Anthony Alves; José Madeira, Steevy Cerqueira; João Granate, Nicolas Martins, Rafael Simões
Replacements: David Costa, Lionel Campergue, Diogo Hasse Ferreira, Martim Belo, David Wallis, Pedro Lucas, Joris Moura, Raffaele Storti