Rugby – Mondial 2023: the Portuguese miracle of Lionel Campergue

And here he is in National 2 at RC Bassin d’Arcachon to be able to claim at 35, to compete in the 2023 edition in France with Portugal, he, the Béarnais educated in Monein, Oloron before joining the Section Paloise in 2004 thanks to the power of persuasion of Joël Rey. Campergue then sailed between Pro D2 and Fédérale 1 in Colomiers, Périgueux, Maçon and therefore Cognac/Saint-Jean d’Angély.

“Proof that anything is possible”

With a middle, parentheses stamped World Rugby. Far from the best of the young French teams – “the best thing is to have been in a group of 40 with France U18” – he had indeed been approached in 2009 by an international David Penalva, a Lusitano in Pro D2 (Blagnac, Auch) to represent Portugal, his mother’s country of birth, and get a taste of international rugby.

“The France team I didn’t think of. I also hadn’t thought about the fact that I could claim to represent Portugal. But I was touched by the fervor, the enthusiasm. I thought of my grandparents who looked after me a day or two a week in Mourenx, who spoke to me in Portuguese, to my mother. I did not hesitate long. »

Fourteen years later, the sporting and linguistic adventure could end in the World Cup. “It’s the very essence of sport: proof that anything is possible,” smiles Lionel Campergue.

It’s no less crazy: Portugal snatched their place at the big table by winning the Qualifying Tournament on Friday in Dubai thanks to a draw against the United States snatched with a penalty from Samuel Marques after the 80th minute. There, at the limit, he was calm when he saw the ex-scrum half of Pau approaching. “I was sure he was going to put it on. He played in the biggest club in France (Toulouse), this penalty for him was easy. When he started, I knew we were passing. »

Under professional contract with the RCBA but also independent salesman in wine and spirits, Lionel Campergue can prepare his best champagne.

The editorial staff advises you

The editorial staff advises you

“I wanted to quit rugby”

Because a few months earlier everything seemed to be over: Portugal had finished 4th in the playoffs for the Europe zone. For the hooker, it really looked like a terminus: “I wanted to stop rugby. I had undergone several operations: the thumb, the tendon of a bicep and during the last qualifying matches, I injured myself against Georgia. I thought it was a shock, I wanted to play the next match against Romania: I held back 25 minutes, in reality, I had three torn tendons on one shoulder. We could no longer qualify, it was curtain. »

Only, the disqualification of Spain having played an ineligible player, put the Lobos back in the race. “I had surgery, I did my rehabilitation to get back on the right track. I did well to hang on » Until this dream tournament.

Now Portugal are in the pool of Australia, Wales, Fiji and Georgia. And the hooker determined to take up “this last challenge”, he, the National 2 player, qualified on Friday, returned to France on Saturday and already in training this Monday morning with RC Bassin d’Arcachon. In this whirlwind, he thinks of his struggling club. Like the need to quickly come back to earth so as not to get lost. “I hope to be taken, I will do everything for. It makes you want. It will be very hard, we will have to hang on. But me when there are beefier guys in front, it gives me ten times more desire to go and oppose.

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