Os Lobos nine Marques is a player who goes all-in...

Sneakiness is a vital part of any scrum-half’s arsenal, like a box kick or a bark. The very best, well, they’ll find a way to clown you. And Portugal nine Samuel Marques is more than happy to find you a red nose.

“Sam is an extremely intelligent player,” explains former Scotland cap Rob Harley, who played with Marques last season in Carcassonne. “He will quick-tap and speed up the game but is equally willing to control tempo, if that is what suits the game better. He’s also willing to exploit players off-balance at rucks – lying on the wrong side – for penalties. He has deceptive power too.

“He won multiple turnovers last year because bigger players ran at him and then they had the ball ripped out from them clean. He has balls of steel.”

According to Portugal assistant coach Luís Pissarra, Marques is competitive. That may sound like a given for any professional in this game, but for the Condom-born nine, this manifests in him trying to lead from the front in any session or challenge, and you will catch him doing extras on a regular basis. As Portugal hooker Mike Tadjer sums up of his mate, “He doesn’t turn off, he is always running and focusing.”

If you want to talk about balls of steel, look at the ice-cold kick from Samuel Marques to send Portugal into this World Cup. Os Lobos had been through an emotional wringer, having thought Iberian rivals Spain had made the competition after beating them in the Rugby Europe Championship, only for them to be punted for fielding an ineligible player.

Romania jumped into the World Cup and Portugal were back on the road for qualifiers. In their defining match against the US in Dubai – with the last spot for France 2023 on the line – the scrum-half lined up the last kick of the game and knocked it over. Just like that.

Tadjer tells us of that kick: “I knew he was going to score it as I saw him scoring many kicks in the Top 14 and Pro D2 like that one.”

Harley adds: “He only plays better under pressure. It’s a big ask for Portugal in their group but opponents better hope the games aren’t close, late.”

Former Carcassonne half-back partner Dorian Jones has a very specific anecdote to highlight this As the Welsh fly-half tells us: “He relishes the big moments. He made a massive kick for us against Montauban that would keep us in the relegation fight (Carcassonne fell out of ProD2 later). After the game I asked him if he felt nerves and he said, ‘No, not at all.’

“He’s a top player and he’s played in big games. He’s played for Toulouse. So he’s got that experience. And he relishes a challenge. Playing against big teams will motivate him even more.

“The better the player, the more motivation he has to play against you.”

The other thing about Marques, a few pros mention, is that he can kick out of hand with both feet. It has made him harder to cover down either blind side, as he has the option to kick it on.

Several others mention how fit he is, usually topping charts when it comes to measuring conditioning. It’s all go.

“He’s on it all the time,” Jones adds. “He’s absolutely wired. And he’s the same off the field. He’s always got energy, always teasing someone, he’s always bouncing round the changing rooms. He doesn’t run out of energy.”

In Portugal camp, it’s hinted, he might be more reserved. But as Jones says: “It’s perhaps because it’s international camp and he has to be more serious, more of a leader. But even when he captained Carcassonne, a room would be quiet and Samuel Marques would come in and suddenly it is full of energy.”

And he’ll keep going to the very end. Even if he hits a post, he’ll want to kick again…

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