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European Nations Cup: rugby’s toughest championship

Working Class Rugger Roar Guru

By Working Class Rugger, Working Class Rugger is a Roar Guru


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    This past weekend saw the kick-off of yet another hotly contested European Nations Cup 1A Championship. A Championship that, in terms of competition among participants, could be argued is the world’s toughest.

    Sure, it’s not the level of the Rugby Championship or the Six Nations, but when observing the pride and passion displayed over the weekend and most importantly the gallantly fought rugby between all competitors, there’s no questioning how tight the next best championship in Europe has become.

    To be honest, it is of no real surprise. Both Spain and Portugal have been trending upward for a few seasons now. Meanwhile, Russia has not been the same team that qualified for New Zealand 2011 and Romania have been witnessing a resurgence of kind, with their relatively fresh professional SuperLiga beginning to pay dividiends.

    Even the perennial powerhouses at this level, Georgia, have begun to notice stiffer resistance of late.

    The improvement alluded to above indicated that among the five established members of this six team championship, the games would be hard fought and hopefully tightly contested. They were.

    In the first weekend of play, Russia hosted Spain and Portugal welcomed Romania.

    Details and coverage of both games is sparse to say the least, however Russia emerged victorious over their Spanish foes by the small margin of 13-9, while Portugal just lacked the finishing stamina to fall at home to Romania 13-19.

    From what can be gathered, both were physical if not scrappy first up games for all involved.

    The one question mark leading into this season was the level of competitiveness newly promoted Belgium would present. The rising power of continental European rugby, the Belgian Union has been squirreling away over the past decade, developing and installing structure to dominate the continental rivals at the age grade level and drive their way into the ENC1A Championship.

    History suggested, via the likes of Germany and the Ukraine, promotion from 1B to 1A is often a step too far. So the question was not how close Belgium’s game would be against the powerful Georgians but if they could at least keep it respectable.

    The answer? Not only did they keep it respectable, they gave the Georgians an almighty scare.

    In front of a capacity home crowd (6,000) in Brussels, the Belgians put the Georgians to the sword early on, leading at one stage 13-3 before the Georgians were able to use their superior experience and forward grunt to assume the lead and the victory 13-17.

    While it was a loss for Belgium, they have fired a warning shot across the bows of the competition that they will not be a guaranteed four points and to beat them, teams will need to respect them as they do each other.

    Overall, this is shaping as potentially the best ENC1A yet. A championship that has potential to develop into something equivalent to the Six Nations with the right support and coverage.

    Now with the likes of Germany rebuilding and showing strong signs of recovery (they pushed Belgium to the limit last year) and surprise packets Poland improving rapidly, European rugby is gaining some serious legs that, if fostered, could deliver a really competitive region well beyond its current levels.

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    The Crowd Says (31)

    • February 5th 2013 @ 5:59am
      Engine mechanic said | February 5th 2013 @ 5:59am | ! Report

      As a belgian myself, I’m hoping we won’t get relegated just yet.
      I’m happy to see Belgium running Georgia so close and hope we make the world cup, although that’s still a dream right now. Coverage of this competition should be improved, as there was barely anything about the game on the belgian telly.
      Great article, glad to see the third tier get some interest!

    • February 5th 2013 @ 6:34am
      kingplaymaker said | February 5th 2013 @ 6:34am | ! Report

      You have to wonder whether the French clubs allowed the players they have from these countries to play for their national teams. At a wild guess I would say no.

      • February 5th 2013 @ 5:18pm
        Sircoolalot said | February 5th 2013 @ 5:18pm | ! Report


        1 Mikheil Nariashvili
        2 Shalva Mamukashvili
        3 David Kubriashvili
        4 Giorgi Chkhaidze (C)
        5 Kote Mikautadze
        6 Viktor Kolelishvili
        7 Mamuka Gorgodze
        8 Dimitri Basilaia
        9 Giorgi Begadze
        10 Merab Kvirikashvili
        11 Alexander Todua
        12 Merab Sharikadze
        13 David Kacharava
        14 Tamaz Mtchedlidze
        15 Beka Tsiklauri

    • February 5th 2013 @ 8:17am
      Sailosi said | February 5th 2013 @ 8:17am | ! Report

      I actually have a feeling that Belgium might sneak up on everybody and overtake Georgia as the best Euro nation outside of the 6N in 5-10 years.

      Comment left via The Roar’s iPhone app. Download it now [].

      • February 5th 2013 @ 11:12am
        Bakkies said | February 5th 2013 @ 11:12am | ! Report

        I am pretty sure the CEO that has brought their union success has moved on.

    • February 5th 2013 @ 8:55am
      stu wilsons gloves said | February 5th 2013 @ 8:55am | ! Report

      Great article mate and a good little crowd for the Belgians, what a fantastic weekend of rugby we have seen. A great start to the 6 nations, 7’s in Wellington and Houston, and the emerging nations battling it out in ENC, bloody great stuff. And super rugby kicks of in a matter of weeks and a B&I tour to Aus as well, let the good times roll.

      I agree with Sailosi that Belguim will big movers in the rugby stakes in the next few years.

    • February 5th 2013 @ 9:15am
      nickoldschool said | February 5th 2013 @ 9:15am | ! Report

      Great to see rugby is expanding in every part of Europe, north, east, south. The Balkans and Turkey are next. ( I remember a match between France and either Croatia or Serbia about 10-15 years ago that ended up in a massive brawl. Was military or uni. These guys are up for it.)

    • February 5th 2013 @ 9:24am
      The Battered Slav said | February 5th 2013 @ 9:24am | ! Report

      Good to see Poland on the rise as well. Just a couple of years ago they were languishing around mid 30’s in the rankings, now they’re sitting around the mid 20’s, hot on the heels of Belgium and Portugal.

      There’s been somewhat of an influx of ehtnically Polish French players who have semi pro experience into the National team, in addition to a naturalised Polish-Georgian. If this can lift the standard of the other locally based players who make up the majority, Poland could well become one of Europes stronger non-6N teams.

      There is a reasonably well maintained national comp with a couple of divisions, and a decent sevens tournament up north as well. With player numbers on the increase, it’s all looking good.

      If this sort of rise can be mirrored in other Euro countries, rugby is looking stronger and stronger. I’d love to see georgia playing a relegation match against Scotland for ascendance into the 6N. I’d be pretty nervous about the prospect of travelling to Tblisi for an away leg if I were England, France, Wales, Italy or Ireland.

      Anyway, great to see Euro rugby becoming increasingly competetive.

      • February 10th 2013 @ 2:57am
        Barbar84 said | February 10th 2013 @ 2:57am | ! Report

        As an Irish man, Poland have become my lower tier team to follow. Its great to watch their steady ascent in Europe. They are very likely to be up in Division 1a next year. With the massive numbers of Poles in Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales now, they are bound to have another crop of players in the coming years, as well as huge numbers of new polish rugby fans going home. Its can be very tough at times to find coverage of these games, I know they have limited funds and all, but they could at least have a facebook page/twitter feed! And as for trying to get a jersey, impossible!