Mattioli Woods Welford Road will host international rugby in 2024 when England A face Portugal at the home of Leicester Tigers.
The standalone fixture will take place on Sunday, February 25 (kick-off: 1.00pm)
The reintroduction of the England A side will provide more game time for players transitioning from the pathway at Under-20 level to the senior team and increase their on-field maturation and development.
As part of the ongoing discussions regarding the Professional Game Partnership (PGP), the RFU and Premiership Rugby Limited (PRL) want to ensure younger players have more game time in order to continue their playing development.
A coaching team involving personnel from across the Gallagher Premiership and England Rugby will be chosen in consultation alongside PRL, with the selection of the matchday 23 determined by senior men’s head coach, Steve Borthwick.
Whilst the friendly is set to take place on the weekend of Round 3 in the 2024 Guinness Six Nations, the encounter against Sébastien Bertrank’s men will also give those in the senior men’s wider squad valuable minutes outside of the tournament to maintain fitness throughout the campaign.
Portugal’s recent outing at the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France captured the imagination of spectators globally, as Os Lobos claimed their first-ever tournament point in a tie against Georgia before securing a famous 24-23 win over Fiji.
Conor O’Shea, RFU Executive Director of Performance Rugby, commented on the prospect of the Iberian nation as the first opponents of England A in over seven years.
“It brings us great excitement to be renewing our A side in 2024, historically it has been a platform for some of the country’s next best players to showcase their talent whilst representing England,” he said.
“Portugal demonstrated their capabilities as a rugby nation on the world stage in recent months with their attacking flair and passion – we can’t wait for more of that in the new year! They are team possessing many bright stars for the future and are a befitting opponent for our A squad.
“England Rugby wants to be part of providing gametime and mutual collaboration for emerging nations such as Portugal, who have a great deal to offer to the game and I'm sure both they and our A side will gain a lot from February’s match. This builds on partnerships we have with other emerging nations and are looking to develop further links with other Tier 2 nations.”
Bertrank, a former ASM Clermont Auvergne player and coach, assumed control of the Portuguese national side following their recent World Cup outing after Patrice Lagisquet’s four-year tenure culminated in their second appearance at the tournament.
Whilst the respective senior sides of each union have never met before, England Saxons took on Portugal at Edgeley Park in 2009 and emerged 66-0 victors before the then upcoming Six Nations campaign.
England Saxons were renamed to England A in 2021 ahead of their later cancelled fixture against Scotland A at Tigers’ ground but it was back in 2016 when the development side last got a run-out in a 2-0 series win over South Africa A.
The storied venue in the heart of the East Midlands last welcomed the Red Roses in their 2022 Women’s Six Nations 69-0 victory over Ireland, and has historically played host to five senior England men’s games as well as the 2008 meeting of England Saxons and Ireland A.
Leicester Tigers Chief Executive Officer Andrea Pinchen added: “We are so pleased to be able to have international rugby back at the home of Leicester Tigers, showcasing our what we know to be the best stadium and supporters in the Premiership.
“We saw what a great response there was to the Red Roses when they featured here in Leicester not so long ago and are looking forward to another great crowd, during an extended period without a fixture for our men’s side, here in February.”
* England A vs. Portugal is currently subject to approval by World Rugby