Rugby World Cup: When Wales’ class of 1994 put 100 points on Portugal

Rugby World Cup: When Wales' class of 1994 put 100 points on Portugal

Nigel Walker scores against Portugal
Nigel Walker competed in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics in the 110m hurdles
Portugal (8) 11
Tries: Murinello Pens: Vilar-Gomez 2
Wales (43) 102
Tries: Walker 4, I Evans 3, Hall 3, R Jones 2, Gareth Llewellyn, H Taylor, S Quinnell, Penalty try Cons: N Jenkins 11

Rugby history between Wales and Portugal is short but significant.

One previous international encounter, which proved to be a record-breaking game in 1994.

It was the only time Wales have scored more than 100 points in an international and the only other Test match between the two nations.

The University Field in Lisbon was the stage on which Wales defeated Portugal 102-11 in the first of four qualification matches for the 1995 tournament.

Alan Davies’ side scored 16 tries, with four for wing Nigel Walker and hat-tricks for captain Ieuan Evans and Cardiff centre Mike Hall, while Neil Jenkins added 11 conversions.

With Wales and Portugal facing each other again almost three decades later in Nice on Saturday, BBC Sport Wales looks back at the mismatch that took place in the first encounter.

Qualification secured

Wales number eight Scott Quinnell scored the first try against Portugal in 1994
Wales number eight Scott Quinnell scored the first try against Portugal in 1994

After bowing out in the 1991 World Cup group stages, Wales had to qualify for the 1995 edition in South Africa.

Wales defeated Portugal and Spain in May 1994, before beating Romania and Italy at home to secure their place in the main tournament.

The process started in Lisbon for a Wales side in buoyant mood having just won the Five Nations title.

“It was weird because we had just won the championship where nobody had given us much hope of winning, but we did well,” said flanker Emyr Lewis.

“It was a good time to be a Welshman, we were overwhelming favourites in Portugal and the result showed that.

“It was hot, it was a lovely country and we scored a century of points which was a record for Wales.”

Wales wing Walker, now the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) interim chief executive, tormented Portugal that day.

“It was a feeling of being nervous because if we’d messed it up, we knew we weren’t going to the World Cup,” said Walker.

“The overriding emotion afterwards was one of personal satisfaction, I played reasonably well. I scored four tries in a club game a few times but in an international match only once.

“As a team we played reasonably well, once we got into our stride, it was fairly comfortable on the day.”

Power game

Gareth Llewellyn runs through the Portugal defence
Gareth Llewellyn runs through the Portugal defence

Lewis, playing out of position in the back row, lined up in a monster Wales pack that overpowered Portugal.

“I remember being selected as an openside flanker in a back row of myself, Hemi Taylor and Scott Quinnell,” said Lewis.

“We scored 16 tries but I didn’t score one or get near to scoring one.

“I was running these angles taught to me by my Llanelli coach Gareth Jenkins in order get to the breakdown quicker.

“What was happening was we were breaking the lines much easier than normal so I was in the wrong places.

“We had the forward platform. There is an old saying that forwards decide who wins the game and backs by how much, and that was relevant on this day.

“During that time we had Nigel, Ieuan and Mike Hall on fire. We got them the ball as soon as possible and they were too quick for them (Portugal).”

World Cup woe

Walker might have impressed in the qualifiers but never managed to compete in a World Cup, missing the tournament in South Africa the following year through injury.

Davies was sacked after a 1995 Six Nations clean sweep of defeats and replaced by Walker’s club coach Alex Evans.

“What might have been but that’s sport,” said Walker.

“There are lots of people who haven’t played in World Cups who maybe should have.

“I remember dislocating my shoulder in the February or March of 1995 and Alan said to me “don’t get it repaired because if you do, you won’t go to the World Cup”.

“I didn’t and unfortunately Alan lost his job three or four weeks later. Alex Evans became my national coach and he felt it was too much of a risk so didn’t pick me.

“The word devastated doesn’t get close but I can say almost 30 years later, I’m over it.”

No 1994 repeats

Portugal have achieved World Cup qualification for the first time since 2007, a tournament where they lost four matches.

Wales have made 13 changes from the side that defeated Fiji in the opening game of the 2023 tournament.

Walker does not expect any repeat this weekend of the result almost 30 years ago.

“There won’t be any complacency whatsoever,” said Walker.

“They beat USA a couple of weeks ago 46-20 and USA were competing in previous World Cups, so are no mugs.

“Everyone is delighted with the performance and win against Fiji, but Portugal is the next game and everyone is focused on doing the job on Saturday.”

Lewis added: “I would be happy if we got about 60 points but Wales still have to work hard. There are no easy games in these competitions.

“Wales have made plenty of changes so it will be interesting to see what the outcome will be.”

Line-ups of 1994

Portugal: JM Vilar-Gomez; P Murinello, R Perreira, N Mourao, T Morais; J Queimado (capt), P Netto Fernandes; S Perreira, M Batista, P Domingos, A Pecas, A Andrade, P Arsenio, J Pires, P Eusebio.

Wales: M Rayer; I Evans (capt), N Davies, M Hall, N Walker; N Jenkins, R Jones; R Evans, G Jenkins, J Davies, A Copsey, G Llewellyn, H Taylor, E Lewis, S Quinnell.

Referee: David J Bishop (New Zealand).

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