Portugal coach Patrice Lagisquet said his team continued to surprise him with the standard of their play but he feared that Fijian physicality might be too much for them in their final World Cup match next weekend.
Portugal gave Wales and Australia scares in their Pool C matches with what Lagisquet calls their “Total Rugby” style and came within a missed kick of beating Georgia only to have to settle for a draw.
“I’m still surprised by the quality of this team, which rises to every challenge and manages to rival teams like Wales and Australia,” Lagisquet told reporters on Monday.
“Even though we lost by heavy margins compared to the way the game went, these players are surprisingly generous and talented. I don’t want it to stop. This group has unsuspected resources.”
Portugal’s target coming to Lagisquet’s native France was to get a win and to do that in Toulouse on Sunday they will have to get past a Fiji team who have beaten Japan, England and Australia this year.
The team will have the support not only of their own passionate fans but also of the Wallabies, who need Portugal to beat Fiji and not allow the Pacific islanders a bonus point to reach the quarter-finals.
Lagisquet said he could not look to Georgia’s match against Fiji, where the Georgians led 9-0 at halftime but lost 17-12, as a blueprint for his Portugal team.
“We don’t have the same quality as Georgia or the same DNA. We don’t yet have enough experience to control our game,” he said.
“On the other hand, we can take inspiration from their defensive quality, because they defended high and prevented the Fijian powerhouse from expressing itself.”
Portugal dominated large parts of Sunday’s match against Australia in Saint Etienne but lost 34-14 after conceding four tries to Wallabies forwards and another to hulking Fijian-born winger Marika Koroibete.
“My fear is a bit the same as before the Australia game,” Lagisquet said of Sunday’s clash.
“I’m afraid that the physical dimension of the Fijians will drain us, that we’ll end up cracking and that it will be difficult to hold out for 80 minutes.”