Rugby in Portugal enjoying new Brain power

(IRB.COM) Tuesday 14 June 2011
 
 Rugby in Portugal enjoying new Brain power
Veteran Portugal wing Antonio Aguilar is enjoying his rugby more than ever under new head coach Errol Brain

By Chris Thau

For Portugal's veteran winger Antonio Aguilar his country's success against the highly-rated Jaguars in the opening round of the IRB Nations Cup, though unexpected, was "not surprising" given the players' approach to the Game.

According to the 33-year-old Direito Lisbon man, who had a terrific match on the left wing in pouring rain on Friday, the objective of Errol Brain's newlook Portugal is to find enjoyment through performance.

"We go out to play well and also have fun along the way, not necessarily just to win matches. And that is why I am still playing, because I have so much fun,“ Aguilar said ahead of Portugal’s second round match against Namibia on Wednesday.

NATIONS CUP STANDINGS >>

“After the 2007 Rugby World Cup I thought I should step down, having played internationally since 1999. But I didn't because I feel good and I enjoy playing enormously.

"A lot of people ask me why I carry on, and my answer is quite simple: Because I really enjoy it.

"This past season I have had one of my best years to date and that is that. When I start to feel that I'm not enjoying it anymore, then I will stop playing.”

New Brain power

Portugal were guided to a first ever World Cup in 2007 by their head coach Tomaz Morais, an astute rugby thinker who has since stepped up to become National Director of Rugby. One of Morais' first steps was to appoint former New Zealand Maori captain Errol Brain as 15-a-side national team coach, allowing Morais the luxury of overseeing the 15s, Sevens and junior programmes, rather than heading all of them up simultaneously. According to Aguilar, the move is already paying dividends.

“We have a very young team with several teenagers playing alongside me and I feel really privileged to help them grow up and develop. It is quite interesting but since Errol took over, with Frederico Sousa as his assistant, things got more relaxed in the national team.

“Errol likes to talk a lot to the players and employs the senior players in his attempt to bring on the new generation. He's taken us back to basics and built from there. Frederico Sousa, who I played with, is also hugely influential and they complement each other very well.

"There is no change in the overall approach employed by Tomaz Morais, who still has a big input into the team strategy and selection, but there has been progress in the way we play. There is still huge emphasis on skill and team work, but we are more confident with the ball in hand."

The second round of matches in the IRB Nations Cup will be played on Wednesday 15 June with Portugal facing defending champions, Namibia.

In the other games at Bucharest's Arcul de Triumpf stadium Georgia take on the Argentina Jaguars and Romania play the South African Kings.