Rugby union in Portugal

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Rugby union in Portugal
Rugby match between Portugal and Spain
Governing body Portuguese Rugby Federation
National team(s) Portugal
First played1903
Registered players48551
National competitions
Club competitions
Players from Mareantes Rugby Clube before kick off Mareantesx.jpg
Players from Mareantes Rugby Clube before kick off

Rugby union in Portugal is a growing sport, though still a long distance from association football. The sport is essentially amateur in Portugal, with some degree of semi-professionalisation in its top flight league and the national rugby union team. The rugby union teams in Portugal are mostly university sides, from Lisbon, Porto and Coimbra, with multi-sport clubs like Benfica and Belenenses having rugby union collectivities.


Governing body

Rugby union in Portugal is administered by the Federação Portuguesa de Rugby. It was founded in 1926 and became affiliated to the International Rugby Board in 1988. [1]


The origins of Portuguese rugby go back over a century, but it was only in the 1920s, and the 1950s that periods of consolidation occurred.

The first recorded Portuguese game occurred at Cruz Quebrada on the outskirts of Lisbon in 1903. [1]


It was only in 1922 that the game began to be organised on a formal basis. [1] The Anglo-Portuguese playing pool at this point had been severely depleted by the First World War, and so the onus fell back on the local population. In 1927, the clubs of Benfica, the Royal Football Club, Carcavelinhos, Ginasio and Sporting came together to form the Portuguese Rugby Federation. [1]

In many cases, the players were students, or ex-students, some of whom had encountered the game abroad. [1]


Portuguese rugby had once again been set back by the effects of another world war, but it was still dominated by students and ex-students. [1]

Portuguese rugby was heavily influenced by French rugby in this period. [1]


Portuguese rugby had a much needed "facelift" in this period, with some of its various problems being addressed. The shortage of facilities was partly remedied, [1] and a proper youth recruitment programme put in place. In three years during the mid-1990s, Portugal managed to double its number of registered players from around 3,000 to around 6,000 [1]

In 1995, however, Portugal had a major setback when they were beaten at home 102-11 by Wales in the 1995 Rugby World Cup qualifiers. [1] This set their morale back, and led to criticism of weaknesses in scrummaging, rucking and mauling.

Present day

Schools development rugby Sub14crup.jpg
Schools development rugby

Portuguese rugby continues to hover around the 6,000 mark, but the main aim at the moment is to improve the national infrastructure, which has partly paid off, since the Portuguese rugby team managed to get into the 2007 Rugby World Cup - the first all amateur team to do so since professionalisation. They were the only new team in the tournament, since all the rest had appeared in the 2003 Rugby World Cup, [2] and they got there by knocking out Uruguay. [2]

In 2008 the Portuguese Rugby Federation, the Spanish Rugby Federation, the Gibraltar rugby authority and various clubs agreed to the formation of a Liga Superibérica (Super Iberian League), which will operate on a franchise system (similar to rugby league's Super League or Japan's bj league of basketball). The new league shall operate with 5 Spanish clubs, 4 Portuguese, and one from Gibraltar. It will operate on a different season from the main leagues.

Because Portugal is a popular holiday destination for people from the United Kingdom and Ireland, with reasonably priced flights etc., it has emerged as a popular tour destination. [3]


Current hierarchical divisional breakdowns

National team

The national rugby union team made a dramatic qualification into the 2007 Rugby World Cup and become the first all amateur team to qualify for the World Cup since the sport opened itself up to professionals in August 1995 (after that year's World Cup). The Portuguese national rugby sevens team has performed well, becoming one of the strongest teams in Europe, and proved their status as European champions in several occasions.

The Portugal national rugby union team, nicknamed "Os Lobos," Portuguese for "The Wolves", is a third tier rugby union side representing Portugal. They first played in 1935 and now compete in the European Nations Cup. Portugal qualified for their first Rugby World Cup in 2007. Portugal were in Pool C along with the New Zealand, Italy, Romania and Scotland. In the tournament, open side João Uva and outside half Duarte Cardoso Pinto were noted as particularly outstanding players. [4] They were heavily beaten by New Zealand but gave both Italy and Romania serious matches with Romania being held to a 14-10 victory, only through their muscle and the second half appearance of skilled Romanian hooker Marius Tincu. [4]

Portugal have experienced unprecedented success in recent years. They were surprise winners of the 2003-4 European Nations Cup and have continued to record impressive results, although they could only finish third in the 2005-6 event.


Portugal playing Romania, 2008 European Sevens 2008, Portugal vs Romania, David Mateus tackle.jpg
Portugal playing Romania, 2008

The Portugal national rugby sevens team represent Portugal in international rugby sevens. The team compete in competitions such as the World Sevens Series and the Rugby World Cup Sevens. Pedro Leal and Pedro Cabral are two notable sevens players.

The IRB Sevens World Series circuit has allowed the Portuguese players to demonstrate their competence to the wider rugby world. In 2006-07 Portugal was an IRB Sevens "core team", participating in each of the season's events, for the first time. They have become an established power in the abbreviated form of the game. They lost core team status a year later, but regained it for the 2012–13 series in a qualifying tournament held as part of the 2012 Hong Kong Sevens.

See also

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Bath p73
  2. 1 2 Richards, Chapter 14 Journeys without Maps, p279
  3. European Rugby, retrieved 19 August 2009
  4. 1 2 Richards, Chapter 14 Journeys without Maps, p281