Thousands turn on to Rugby in Portugal
As Portugal's finest prepare to compete in this weekend's Emirates Airline Edinburgh Sevens, the final leg of the IRB Sevens World Series, thousands more are turning to the sport in their country.
Last weekend at Twickenham Portugal proved that, even with limited involvement on the Series, they are still a match for the best. This weekend's hosts Scotland were on the wrong side of the result when they played in the Bowl semi final and they were also competitive against New Zealand and beaten by only two points by Wales, Kenya and Canada.
The players also know that they are competing at what is an exciting time for rugby in their country. This weekend Sport TV will show all of Portugal's games as well as the latter stages of the final World Series tournament, as it has done for a couple of years now, which naturally gives the sport and the players added exposure.
25,000 new children play Rugby
This year for the first time a schools initiative has been launched in Portugal to bring some 25,000 children from over 270 schools in contact with the game for the first time - a significant number in a country with less than 6,000 registered players.
Last weekend the Nestum-sponsored project reached a fitting climax as 900 children from 70 schools gathered for finals day.
"It is the most significant advance we've ever made in terms of grass roots participation," said Tomaz Morais, the Rugby Union's Technical Director who oversees the country's Sevens and 15-a-side national teams at all levels.
"It is wonderful that we have so many new people, many of them children, finding out about rugby and experiencing its values, its teamwork and its friendship for the first time."
Since the country competed in its first Rugby World Cup in France in 2007 the sport has experienced massive growth in Portugal. Soccer is still king, but increasingly rugby is reaching out to a new audience with Sevens also playing a major part.
"We're really looking forward to this weekend in Scotland, we had a good weekend in London losing three games by two points in the last play of the match, so the overall level was really high," said coach Pedro Fernandes.
"Playing at Twickenham and now at Murrayfield is immense, they are cathedrals of world rugby and we really want to prove ourselves and show that we have a lot of pride and quality in our game."
Video: Classic Match - Portugal v Scotland, Wellington 2007
To watch more classic matches and IRB Highlights shows, go towww.youtube.com/show/irbsevens