Warren Gatland’s side just about came out on top in an opening weekend thriller against Fiji in Bordeaux on Sunday night, surviving a stunning late fightback courtesy of Semi Radradra’s harrowing last-gasp drop to somehow escape with a bonus-point 32-26 victory that owed much to their dogged defensive efforts throughout a modern tournament classic.
While no doubt energy-sapping in the extreme, such a hard-fought win - which saw fly-half Dan Biggar deliver a rollocking to team-mate George North and criticism over the officiating - is likely to be crucial in the race to reach the quarter-finals from a group that also contains Australia, who picked up their first win of Eddie Jones’ second tenure a day earlier against Georgia.
With respect to Portugal, this should be a totally more straightforward affair for Wales on the French Riviera than the extreme challenge posed by the Flying Fijians.
Coached since 2019 by former France wing Patrice Lagisquet, nicknamed the ‘Bayonne Express’, the Lobos - ranked 16th in the world - were the odd ones out in Pool C and did not play on opening weekend so have had a while to prepare for this opening contest, having secured their spot on the global stage again with a 16-all draw with the USA in the crucial last game of the Final Qualification Tournament last November.
This is only Portugal’s second appearance at the World Cup and first since 2007, when they finished winless bottom of a pool that contained the All Blacks, Scotland, Italy and Romania, shipping 209 points and scoring only 38. Now they are back in France and eager to make an impression after dispatching the USA during a warm-up campaign that also included a defeat by a Wallabies ‘A’ team.
Date, kick-off time and venue
Wales vs Portugal takes place today, Saturday September 16, 2023, with kick-off scheduled for 4:45pm BST.
The Stade de Nice will host the Pool C encounter.
Where to watch Wales vs Portugal
TV channel: In the UK, Saturday’s showdown is to be shown live and free to air on ITV1, with coverage starting at 4pm.
Live stream: The ITV website and ITVX app will also offer a free live stream service for fans online.
Wales vs Portugal team news
With a likely pool decider coming up against Australia in Lyon on September 24, this is the game in which to rest players for Wales and ensure that their top stars are fully recuperated for the challenges that lie ahead.
Indeed, Gatland has rotated all but two of his starting lineup from last weekend, with Louis Rees-Zammit and Taulupe Faletau the only players remaining in the first XV. Hooker Dewi Lake captains the side on his World Cup debut.
Portugal, meanwhile, are boosted ahead of their first World Cup match for 16 years by the return to fitness of 17-try Stade Francais wing Raffaele Storti after injury, but he’s only on the bench.
Wales vs Portugal lineups
Wales XV: Halfpenny; Rees-Zammit, Grady, Williams, Dyer; Anscombe, Williams; Smith, Lake (c) Lewis; Tshiunza, Jenkins; Lydiate, Reffell, Faletau
Replacements: Elias, Domachowski, Beard, Francis, Basham, G Davies, Costelow, Adams
Portugal XV: Guedes; Pinto, Lima, Appleton (c), Marta; Portela, Marques; Fernandes, Tadjer, Alves; Madeira, Cerqueira’ Granate, Martins, Simoes
Replacements: Costa, Campergue, Ferreira, Belo, Wallis, Lucas, Moura, Storti
Wales vs Portugal referee
Taking charge of Saturday’s game will be English referee Karl Dickson, assisted by Luke Pearce and Italy’s Andrea Piardi. The Television Match Official (TMO) is South Africa’s Marius Jonker.
Wales vs Portugal prediction
Wales will be confident of a handsome victory in Nice regardless of their widespread personnel changes.
Hanging on to see off Fiji will have been a massive confidence boost for Gatland and Co after such a difficult 2023 to date for Welsh rugby in general.
Portugal won’t lack heart and determination, but there is an obvious gulf in class and it will be very tough going on their return to the biggest stage.
Wales to win by at least 40 points.
Head to head (h2h) history and results
The only previous meeting between these two nations occurred all the way back in May of 1994 in Lisbon, when Wales had to play a World Cup qualifier for 1995 after not reaching the 1991 quarter-finals.
They went over the century mark in a 102-11 demolition, scoring 16 tries including four from current Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) interim CEO Nigel Walker. Neil Jenkins provided 11 conversions on the day.
Wales wins: 1
Portugal wins: 0
Wales vs Portugal latest odds
Wales to win: 1/80
Portugal to win: 35/1
Odds via Betfair (subject to change).