“We cannot think that the work is done, let's be very realistic. The ambition is constant, we have reached this level, but we will always want more and more. We have built a very solid foundation for the future, but it is not enough. Four years ago, when this cycle began, we were 27th in the [world] ranking, at the moment we are 13th”, said Tomás Appleton.
And he added: “We don’t want to stop here. It has to be our motto, our starting point, because in the end we want to compete with the best teams in the world”.
Regarding new coach, Frenchman Sébastien Bertrank, who succeeded his compatriot Patrice Lagiquet, the 30-year-old athlete sees “some advantages”.
“The fact that Sebástien is French can continue this type of culture, style of rugby, beautiful and spectacular style of game that we want to play and show to the world, which comes a lot from this 'DNA' between the French and Portuguese. There is a lot of work ahead, the pressure is on,” he commented.
He went on to detail the problems that exist in the sport in Portugal, namely the difficulties in recruiting talent in the country.
“Obviously [more support] is needed. There are several problems associated with rugby in Portugal. There is a great centralisation, because 90% of rugby is focused on Lisbon. There is much more talent out there and at the moment it is very difficult to recruit talent in these regions. Another problem has been the lack of professionalism at senior levels. There is great difficulty for a kid to start playing without the prospect of it being his career”.
Finally, he called for investment in sport in general, in order to better prepare athletes for high competition.
“Portugal needs to invest more in sport, in professionalism, in high competition, making it easier for kids and young people to train as high competition athletes. If we want to reach a high level, a lot involves going abroad and, clearly, that needs to be resolved. Not exclusively rugby, but sport itself”, he concluded.
In France, Portugal recorded their first World Cup triumph, against Fiji Islands (24-23), after their first draw, against Georgia (18-18), having lost to Wales (8-28) and Australia (14 -34), to finish fourth in Group C.