We talk exclusively to the retiring Lobos hooker


That is Mike Tadjer’s answer to the question of who kicks better: Samuel Marques or Dimitry Payet. The now-retired Portuguese hooker is a massive Olympique Marseille fan and started his sports life as a football player, but after three months he moved to rugby, in the aftermath of his football coach drafting him in to play in defence when he wanted to be a forward. 

More than 20 years later, Mike Tadjer became not only an established Test star but also a Lobos legend, loved by Portuguese fans all over the world. However, when he was subbed off for the final time, against Fiji, he tried not to get emotional.

Related: Where does Portugal World Cup win rank amongst incredible upsets?

“It was hard for me, as it was my last game. When I started to exit, I saw everyone standing and applauding, and I had to turn my eyes away, squinting and trying to look away. Yesterday I rewatched the game, and, when that moment came, my skin started to crawl. I won’t ever forget.”

After the Fiji match and the party that ensued from it, Mike Tadjer shared just a couple of words with Patrice Lagisquet. Even if they were just a few, they were powerful enough to last forever in his memory,

“Patrice only said: ‘Thank you’. Four years ago, he called me back to play for Portugal, and since then I made myself available for the team. Every time he selected me, I was ready to take the Lobos mantle. I am really happy that we delivered the best send-off for him.”

Lagisquet lays groundwork for the future

The Frenchman’s arrival in Portuguese rugby changed the Lobos history forever, as the former Biarritz head coach brought new insight and a more professional way of working. Tadjer says: “Before he (Lagisquet) joined Portugal, we had structural problems that needed to be solved – players not going to the gym, practices with just half of the team, etc. Patrice arrived, identified a series of issues, and said to the whole squad ‘the path to success isn’t going to be easy, and if you want to quit, now is the time.”

Tadjer’s respect for the former Lobos head coach goes deep, and it clearly motivated them to play one the most entertaining matches in Rugby World Cup history. The mentality changed, the structure became more professional, and the knowledge introduced to the players is a key ingredient for the future of the Portuguese rugby community, as the 33-year-old hooker revealed.

“I hope that Portugal can become an established rugby nation in the near future. It’s easier said than done, I know, but besides the need for more investment and funds, the changes done by Patrice Lagisquet must be kept in place.”

Mike Tadjer

Tadjer is overwhelmed after beating Fiji (Getty Images)

When asked if he has any plans to get involved with Portugal in his post-playing career, Tadjer is very open about it. “I want to get involved. I know the Top14, ProD2, and the Portuguese national team, and I feel I have the knowledge to share with my former team-mates. I would like to work as a set piece coach… But I have only retired three days ago, so we have time!”

A Mike Tadjer kick to remember

Abandoning the most serious side of the conversation, we backtrack to that last dance in the Stadium de Toulouse, specifically… that kick. Like Michelangelo’s David, Mike Tadjer sculpted a wow! moment that became viral the second it happened. The main question that needs to be answered is: what was he doing back there?

“If you go back some seconds before that kick, you will see that I passed the ball to Manuel Cardoso Pinto,” he says. “I was tackled immediately after it, and it was a massive one. It took me an extra second to get up, and when I did, I just saw Fiji kicking in my direction. I looked around and said ‘S***, I am alone!’ And the rest is history!”

When asked if the Fijian players commented on that kick, Tadjer smiles and adds: “Oh yes! They said ‘nice kick!’ There were a lot of compliments!”

It wasn’t his first time doing it, as there are quite a few Top14 and ProD2 highlights showing the former hooker kicking. And there’s an explanation for his talent, “I play football whenever I can, and when we have off-time between practices, I try to kick to touch, do drops or conversions. I really enjoy it.”

For those who wonder, Mike Tadjer likes to play as a midfielder, being like a bulkier Bruno Fernandes. But as kicking duties go, he never had to worry in the Portuguese setup, as Samuel Marques had his full trust, “I knew he (Samuel Marques) was going to convert that last kick, just as I knew when he did it against USA in Dubai. 100% sure.”

Two kicks on the same night by two who will go down in history.

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