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New Portugal boss confirms Samuel Marques’ return for Springboks tour

By Jon Newcombe
Samuel Marques of Portugal during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between Wales and Portugal at Stade de Nice on September 16, 2023 in Nice, France. (Photo by Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images)

Simon Mannix has pulled off a masterstroke as new Portugal head coach before he has even properly started in the role by enticing Samuel Marques to come out of Test retirement.


Mannix has worked previously with Os Lobos’ Rugby World Cup 2023 clutch player having coached the goal-kicking scrum-half between 2014 and 2016 whilst together at Séction Paloise.

It was a successful partnership as Pau won the ProD2 in that first season and Mannix has remained an admirer of the player who produced two of the most iconic moments in Portugal’s rugby history.

Marques, who has been the heartbeat of Beziers’ season in Pro D2, nailed the kick that drew the crunch qualifier with USA and sent Portugal to their first Rugby World Cup in 16 years and then came up with another priceless conversion as Os Lobos beat Fiji at the tournament itself.

No-one could bemoan the 35-year-old’s decision to retire on such a high note after Portugal’s epic first Rugby World Cup win in Toulouse, but the change in head coach and the prospect of playing the Springboks in July has led to the U-turn.

Such is the level of respect between the two, RugbyPass understands that Marques actively put forward Mannix’s name for the interview process.


“I coached Sam early on at Pau, back when he was an absolute livewire both on and off the field,” said once-capped All Black Mannix.

“Like a lot of the players who came through that period, he appreciated the rugby I wanted to play so there is reciprocal respect.

“He had so much energy and he has still got an incredible amount of energy; he is an extremely fit athlete and is playing with such a confidence and with real precision in what he does.

“Whenever he is on the field you feel Beziers are going to win. I think he has been that good that most people in France who follow rugby would say this is the guy who has had the biggest influence on any one team.


“Since he has come back post-World Cup, they have won so much and are on a great run, even though they are maybe struggling a little physically now we’re coming to the back end of the season and it’s pressure time,

“I think it is going to be great watching him perform in the play-offs and try and get his team up into the Top 14,” Mannix added.

“He is playing high-level Top 14 rugby. If Sam was playing for Toulouse, we’d be raving about him. I’m sure,

“He has easily shown he has got his place both at international level and how he is leading this team is very, very impressive.

“I am delighted that Sam is going to play again and will go down (to South Africa) in the summer, which will be the initial drive for me to get to know all the players and the squad and start rebuilding for next season’s Rugby Europe Championship.”

While Marques’ club have been competing at the right end of the Pro D2 table, Mannix’s Biarritz were involved in a relegation dogfight, a fight that went down to the final throes of the season.

In the end, Biarritz had to rely on those below them slipping up to retain their status in France’s second tier, but there is no doubting the positive impact that former All Blacks fly-half Mannix had at Parc des Sports d’Aguilera.

With the off-field uncertainty over the change of ownership hanging over the club, Biarritz were more basket-case than Basque when he took over in December. But Mannix galvanised the squad together and got them over the line … just.

“We had numerous opportunities to make the season safe for some time and that is the really disappointing thing for me, that we didn’t put the thing to bed much earlier. But that’s by the by, the club is safe and it starts, hopefully, a new positive chapter,” he said.

“Given what I inherited and given what I walked into, and the state of the group and where they were all at mentally, I am really happy. I really enjoyed the experience but it was very difficult.

“I described it (Biarritz) in the French press as like a beaten dog that was cowering in the corner, and it needed a lot of love and caressing to get the players back enjoying what they do.

“I had never seen an environment like it and walking into it on your own was pretty tough. But it has been one of the most rewarding experiences as a coach; it has been a great human experience.”


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