Who is going to star for Portugal against England 'A'?

Tomas Appleton - who starred at the World Cup - will be one to watch for Portugal at Mattioli Woods Welford Road
©Photo by Christopher Pike - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images

Portugal are on their way to the British Isles to face England in an “A” clash for only the second time in history, and the Lobos will showcase a revamped team as they look to build depth in their squad.

After defeat to Belgium in their opening group game of the ongoing Men's Rugby Europe Championship, the side that captured the hearts of many rugby fans during last year’s World Cup went on to top Pool B.

Included in Portugal’s run to the Men's REC semi-finals - where they will face Spain next weekend - they recorded a notable win against Romania in Bucharest, but now they turn their attention to this Sunday’s meeting with England ‘A’. 

With the likes of Raffaele Storti, Rodrigo Marta, Nicolas Martins, Francisco Fernandes, Pedro Bettencourt and others currently playing in the Top14 and ProD2 (no bye this weekend), João Mirra will look to this fixture as the ideal stage to launch the international career of more than a couple of players.

With that said, you will still have the chance to watch a handful of very well-known units so let me tell you who they are!

Tomás Appleton (Centre / 30 years old / 68 caps)

Before I go on with the normal ramble of how great Tomás Appleton is, did you know he played one season for Darlington Mowden Park? Yeah, Portugal’s skipper had a short stint in the National Leagues back in 2015 which helped him hone his skills. 

Appleton is a modern centre who can seamlessly shift to fly-half if needed, putting to work his excellent handling skills and game knowledge. That long pass for Bettencourt’s try against Australia in the World Cup was just a small example of his game-changing impact and why you should be excited to watch him on Sunday. 

Manuel Picão (Loose Forward / 26 years old / 20 caps)

Manuel Picão was unlucky not to get a World Cup cap, but he shouldn’t be overlooked as the loose forward is one of the most consistent operators in the side.

The utility forward will take the England “A” match as an invitation to lead the Portuguese pack and he will certainly be a prowler waiting patiently to tackle any foe and poach the ball at every breakdown. 

He was part of the U18 Portugal team that defeated Scotland in a past Men’s Rugby Europe Championship (when the home nations were still in it), and he has grown to become a fine Lobo since then.   

António Prim (Tighthead Prop / 21 years old / 4 caps)

Portugal is on the lookout to strengthen the ‘big boys up in front club,’ as Francisco Fernandes and Anthony Alves's international careers are coming to a close, and António Prim is one of the new names that can become an answer to the Lobos prop problems. 

He is young, brash, and resourceful, loves a good scrum contest, and has the potential to spark an impactful carry if he has the chance. He was close to a World Cup debut back in 2023, and he won’t fail again come 2027.  

Manuel Cardoso Pinto (Fullback / 25 years old / 34 caps)

An eel dipped in grease and vaseline that can go from zero to 80 miles per hour would be the right way to describe Manuel Cardoso Pinto. 

The fullback/wing is a show stealer of the same calibre as Raffaele Storti, Nuno Sousa Guedes, and Rodrigo Marta and if taken lightly, he will slice your team’s defence in a blink of an eye. 

Just check out his impact in the Men’s Rugby Europe Championship 2024, beating 18 defenders, five-line breaks, and scoring two tries which all proved to be crucial in taking down Romania in Bucharest. He is worth every penny and makes any Test match a joyous spectacle.