Portugal will not go to the 2023 World Cup as an “expiatory victim”, warns Lagisquet

The former coach of Biarritz Olympique and the rear of the XV of France looks back on the course of the Portuguese, which he has qualified for the second time in their history at the World Cup.

Patrice Lagisquet, coach of Portugal, the last country to qualify for the 2023 Rugby World Cup, happy to have gone “at the end of this dream which has become reality”.

With a few days of hindsight, what feeling dominates after the qualification of Portugal for its second World Cup only after that of 2007?
Patrice Lagisquet: The satisfaction of having made this team progress, of having lived a great adventure, of having built something. We were still going a long way three years ago (on his arrival, editor’s note), with a bunch of games who were between 18 and 20 years old and some players who were far from having the level we display today. It was not easy every day, there were still some disappointments. We had to take an interest in professional players who were playing in France, allow amateur players from Portugal to become pros… We had to combine a lot of parameters to achieve this result.

“The model is Georgia”

How did you successfully manage to bring professional and amateur players together?
Mayonnaise had not always been taken in the past. Because there were the constraints of amateurs, who could only train in the evening, the pros who were waiting… I wanted to show that my requirements were the same for everyone. The pros did not arrive on conquered ground and the amateurs did not necessarily have any more excuses. We had the chance to quickly beat Romania in the Six Nations B Tournament in 2020. It was a founding act. The players started celebrating together and we all know the richness of our third halves. This made it possible to build a group with a common life, common experiences. Above all, there was a huge desire from most of these players. That’s what was pretty awesome to experience, everything they gave to go after this dream that became a reality.

What will be your objective at the World Cup in France?
We have already succeeded in “challenging” Japan, Italy, Georgia, but we will have a course to overcome. Wales and Australia (future opponents in pool C), it is still a higher dimension. You will have to see a comment on getting ready, how many weeks we will have, what preparation matches we can put in place… The idea will be to be competitive. Above all, not to be an expiatory victim as it happened a little in 2007 in certain matches.

“We contacted Gomes Sa and he informed us of his refusal”

Georgia’s victory over Wales (13-12) did this weekend give you any ideas?
I have said from the beginning that the model is Georgia. It is a nation that has done a lot of work on training, development and it is showing great progress. Portugal has somewhere embarked on the same approach and it must be accentuated. World Rugby (the international federation) should manage to provide additional resources so that we really have this training approach to expand the panel of professional players. In Portugal there are no foreigners. We evolve with a group of players either Portuguese, or whose parents or grandparents are Portuguese. So there is a very strong link with the country.

Could you call on Portuguese-born players like Racing 92 stalwart Cedate Gomes Sa or scrum-half Morgan Parra?
We contacted Gomes Sa and he notified us of his refusal. I don’t see myself now at all having players who didn’t want to join us earlier in the adventure. Vis-à-vis the group of players who went for this qualification, it would be totally disrespectful, and the level they showed and the efforts they made. That would be a very bad signal.

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