Rugby Europe International Championships
Current season, competition or edition:
Current sports event 2023–24 Rugby Europe International Championships
SportRugby union
Founded1936 (predecessors)
2023 (current format)
No. of teamsSee below
ContinentEurope / Rugby Europe
Most recent
champion(s)
 Georgia
Most titles France (25)
 Georgia (16)
 Romania (10)

The Rugby Europe International Championships is the European Championship for tier 2 and tier 3 rugby union nations.

The tournament is split into 5 levels, each with 5 or 6 teams. Its highest level is now called the Rugby Europe Championship and, unofficially, referred to as the Six Nations B. All levels play on a one-year cycle, replacing the old format of a two-year cycle, with the teams playing each other both home and away. From September 2016, there will still be an annual champion, however a format change means each year sees teams promoted and relegated between the levels.

History

Main articles: History of rugby union and Rugby Europe

International championships before 2000

Following the exclusion of France from the Five Nations Tournament after the 1931 edition, France joined with Italy, Romania, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Portugal, Netherlands, and Catalonia to create the International Amateur Rugby Federation (FIRA, now Rugby Europe) as an alternative to the International Rugby Football Board (now World Rugby). Three tournaments were held from 1936 to 1938, with France winning all three. Following the Second World War, France was readmitted into the Five Nations Championship, but they also competed in the only two tournaments organised by FIRA, the Rugby Union European Cup, held in 1952 and 1954, winning them both.

From 1965, FIRA attempted to revitalise the European competition by creating the FIRA Nations Cup (1965-1973) and then the FIRA Trophy (1973-1997); however, France fielded a France A side made up mostly of university students.[citation needed] While the French students won many of the tournaments, Romania also had their share of tournament titles. In the late 1990s, the championship became irregular, with some editions not taking place because of qualifications for the World Cup. Finally, the European Nations Cup began in 2000, no longer including France and Italy, as they now played in the reformed Six Nations Championship.

European Nations Cup: initial format (since 2000)

2022-23 Rugby Europe International Championships
Key
Six Nations
Championship
Trophy
Conference
Development
Others

After the setup of the divisional system in 2000, Romania won the first competition with maximum points, The initial season also included Morocco.

Russia then replaced Morocco in 2001 when Georgia secured the title and were crowned champions after a 31–20 win over Romania in Bucharest. As the competition format changed from a one-year tournament to two-years, the Netherlands were not relegated after this season.

Romania started 2002 trailing Georgia after the 2001 results, but managed to win all of the remaining five games, including a 31–23 victory in Tbilisi.

Portugal were 16–15 winners over Romania in Lisbon and installed themselves at the top of the 2003–04 table. In the second half of the competition, Romania won 36–6 against Portugal in Constanța, but went down 24–33 to Russia in Krasnodar. Then Portugal clinched their first title with a last-minute 19–18 home win over Russia. The Russia – Czech Republic game was rescheduled due to bad weather and was eventually cancelled.

The 2005–06 championships also served as a qualifying pool for the 2007 Rugby World Cup. Romania triumphed finishing level on points with Georgia, while Ukraine were relegated after losing all matches.

The 2007–08 edition saw the return of the Spanish to the top division. The winners were Georgia, following their display at the 2007 Rugby World Cup. The Russians recorded their best ever placement, finishing in second. The Czech Republic were the team to finish on the bottom of the table, losing all of their matches, relegating them back to Division 2A.

A new format was decided at the beginning of 2009. Each calendar year had its own champion, but the cumulated ranking over two years determined which team was relegated. The 2009–10 edition was also basis for European qualification to the 2011 Rugby World Cup. The 2009 season saw the début of Germany in the top division, Georgia defended their title, and there were wins for Portugal and Russia in Bucharest.

Faced with the possibility of missing a Rugby World Cup for the first time, Romania were managed the 2010 title. This feat was however not enough to overtake Georgia and Russia, who helped by their good results from the previous year, gained the automatic qualification for the 2011 RWC, leaving Romania to go through the Play-Off Qualification Rounds. Germany were relegated after failing to win any games.

Georgia won the 2011 edition, after beating Romania 18–11 in Tbilisi. The promoted team, Ukraine, lost all but one of their matches, single win over Portugal.

European Nations Cup: second format (from 2010 to 2016)

For the 2010–2012 competition (and promotion and relegation between groups going forward to successive competitions), the top two divisions (previously 1 and 2A) were redefined as 1A and 1B, both having six teams (previously six and five). The next four levels (previously 2B, 3A, 3B and 3C) become 2A-2D, under the new system, with the remnants of Division 3D making up the initial group of teams labelled as Division 3. In principle, each division is to encompass a different type of competition.

In Division 1, groups have six teams (meaning more matches and thus more travel), a significant fraction of the players are assumed to be professional or semi-professional (meaning that fixtures are, as often as possible, scheduled within the IRB's international fixtures time windows when clubs must release players for national duty), and only one team is promoted and one relegated every two years (meaning that the competitions are more stable).

In Division 2, groups have only five teams each (usually meaning one home match and one away match in the Autumn, and the same in the Spring, for each team), it is assumed that the majority of players are amateurs (meaning scheduling is not as limited), and in addition to the traditional automatic first-promoted-last-relegated system, fourth place from the higher pool will play second place from the lower pool after every two-year competition, with the winner taking the position in the higher pool. From a five-team group, one team is promoted, one team is relegated and two teams play in playoffs. Thus, a maximum of four of a pool's five teams could change from one two-year competition to the next.

In Division 3, a single-location, short-time-period (one week or 10 days) tournament is organised once per year. This minimises travel costs for teams and time-off-work requirements for players, and allows the flexibility of having a different membership every year, rather than requiring the membership to be constant over two years. The best performing team over two years of tournaments is promoted to Division 2.

In the year of transition to the new system (2010), there were no relegations from any division below the highest, because the second-highest (old 2A, new 1B) was expanded by one team.

International Championships: third format (from 2016 to 2022)

From September 2016, the European Nations Cup became the Rugby Europe International Championships, made up of five levels or divisions:

The Trophy, Conference and Development divisions have normally been held across the turn of the year, in the autumn and winter of one year and the spring of the next. The Championship has usually been held in the spring, concurrent with the second half of the lower three divisions (and also concurrent with the Six Nations Championship).

A promotion and relegation play-off system is maintained across all levels every year, moving away from the two-year system in place since 2003, meaning teams will be promoted and relegated every year.[1]

In the 2020-2021 season, due to the worldwide COVID-19 epidemic, the lower divisions were not held, and much of the 2021 Championship division was delayed, being held over the whole of 2021 (thus, its last matches overlapped with the following 2021-2022 season of the lower divisions). Thus, there was no promotion/relegation between the divisions, including between the Championship and Trophy, following the 2020-2021 season: promotion/relegation resumed following the 2022 Championship (which was held on-time) and the 2021-2022 Trophy, Conference and Development divisions. The structure was slightly changed after 2022, to increase the Championship division to eight rather than six teams: furthermore, Russia (who had played, and lost, their first two matches), were disqualified and banned from the 2022 Championship and from all international rugby until further notice, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine after having played two matches of the 2022 season: their three remaining matches in the 2022 Championship were awarded to their opponents (Portugal, Georgia and Netherlands), by walkover.

Qualification for three European spots in the 2023 Rugby World Cup was determined by the collective results of the 2021 and 2022 Championships added together, which (thanks to the fact of no promotion and relegation following the 2021 season, and the lower divisions not being played at all) formed a full home-and-away round-robin between the six nations of the Championship. The top two teams would qualify as Europe 1 and Europe 2: the third-place team, as Europe 3, would enter the final qualification tournament along with Africa 3 (Kenya), Americas 3 (USA) and the loser of the Asia/Pacific play-off (Hong Kong). Russia's expulsion mattered little, since they had lost all but two of their matches anyway (both in the 2021 season). However, the issue of ineligible players raised its head again, though not to the extent it had in the 2019 qualification: Spain, who had been fourth in 2021 but second in 2022 and were in fact in second place over the collective two years, were penalised 10 points - five in each season - for fielding an ineligible player in two matches. Georgia were far ahead in first place, with 9 wins and 1 draw over the two years: Spain's discomfiture resulted in Romania qualifying directly from the Championship in second place, and Portugal being in third place for the final intercontinential qualifier. Portugal won that tournament to qualify for the World Cup.

Addittionaly, Rugby Europe made changes to the bonus points system. The standard system, that is applied in the Six Nations Championship was discarded in favour of the French system. The main difference is that where previously a team would be awarded 1 try bonus point for scoring (at least) 4 tries, regardless of the outcome, and whereas now, a team would be awarded 1 "bonus" point for winning while scoring at least the equivalent of 3 or more tries than their opponent.

International Championships: third format (2022)

From October 2022,[2] the Rugby Europe International Championships, made up of five levels or divisions:

A statement was released by the Polish Rugby Union in December 2021 confirming that the Rugby Europe Championship, will expand to 8 teams in 2022/2023 season. To accommodate this expansion, no team will be relegated from the top tier, while two teams from the second tier Trophy Championship will be promoted following the completion of the 2021/2022 Championship.[3] The serpentine system is applied to allocate each team to their respective groups.[2] Each team will play a total of five games (three round robin group matches to detremine the team's path and two play-off matches).[2] Seeding (for group) and relegation is calculated over a two year cycle, as is the promotion from Trophy competition.[2]

This was further altered by Russia's expulsion from international sport following the invasion of Ukraine, which left only five teams from those who had contested the 2022 Championship. Three teams, rather than the originally intended two, were promoted from the Trophy - Belgium, Germany and Poland: and the Trophy, in 2022-23, thus contained only five teams rather than the previous six, even with the promotion of Sweden and Croatia from the Conference to join Ukraine, Lithuania and Croatia.

A relegation system is maintained across all levels two-year, moving away from the one-year system in place since 2016, meaning teams will be promoted and relegated every two year.

International Championships: new format (from 2023)

From 2023, the Rugby Europe International Championships, made up of four levels or divisions:

A statement was released by the Polish Rugby Union in June 2023, confirming that the Rugby Europe Conference 1 and Conference 2 will be combined to one level. Teams with ambitions of climbing up the rugby pyramid can compete in a play-off to the Trophy after submitting their intentions to Rugby Europe where an assessment on various aspects will be made after winning their respective pool.

Current divisions and standings (2023–24)

Key
* Champion of the 2022–23 season
Team promoted from the division below after the 2022–23 season
Division champion but team not promoted after the 2022–23 season
Last place of division but team not relegated after the 2022–23 season
Team relegated from the division above after the 2022–23 season
Championship Final Standings
 Georgia
 Portugal
 Romania
 Spain
 Netherlands
 Germany
 Belgium
 Poland
Trophy Pl W Pts
 Sweden 5 4 18
  Switzerland 4 4 17
 Czech Republic 5 3 14
 Croatia 5 2 11
 Lithuania 5 1 4
 Ukraine 4 0 0
Conference Pool A Pl W Pts
 Latvia 3 2 10
 Finland 3 2 9
 Denmark 2 1 6
 Andorra 3 1 5
 Norway 1 0 0
Conference Pool B Pl W Pts
 Luxembourg 3 3 14
 Slovenia 2 1 8
 Hungary 3 1 6
 Austria 3 1 5
 Bosnia and Herzegovina 3 0 1
Conference Pool C Pl W Pts
 Moldova 2 2 9
 Bulgaria 1 1 4
 Serbia 1 0 0
 Turkey 2 0 0
Conference Pool D Pl W Pts
 Malta 1 1 4
 Cyprus 1 0 1
 Israel 0 0 0
Development Pl W Pts
 Kosovo 1 1 4
 Montenegro 1 0 0

Updated through 6 April 2024

Predecessor tournaments (1936–1999)

FIRA Tournaments (1936–1938)

Year Host city Winner Runner-up Third place
1936 Nazi Germany Berlin  France  Germany  Italy
1937 French Fourth Republic Paris  France  Italy  Germany
1938 Romania Bucharest  France  Germany  Romania

Rugby Union European Cup (1952–1954)

Year Winner Runner-up Third place
1952  France  Italy  West Germany
1954  France  Italy  Spain

FIRA Nations Cup (1965–1973)

Year First Division Second Division Champion
Winner Runner-up Third Relegated
1965–66  France  Italy  Romania  Czechoslovakia  Portugal
1966–67  France  Romania  Italy  Portugal  Czechoslovakia
1967–68  France  Romania  Czechoslovakia  Poland
1968–69  Romania  France  Czechoslovakia  West Germany
 Poland
 Italy
1969–70  France  Romania  Italy  Czechoslovakia  Morocco
1970–71  France  Romania  Morocco  Italy  Czechoslovakia
1971–72  France  Romania  Morocco  Czechoslovakia  Spain
1972–73  France  Romania  Spain  Portugal

FIRA Trophy (1973–1997)

Year First Division Lower Division Champions
Winner Runner-up Third Relegated Second Division Third Division
1973–74  France  Romania  Spain  Poland
 Morocco
 Italy Not held
1974–75  Romania  France  Italy  Czechoslovakia  Poland
1975–76  France  Italy  Romania  Netherlands  Morocco[a]
 Czechoslovakia
1976–77  Romania  France  Italy  Morocco  Czechoslovakia  Belgium
1977–78  France  Romania  Spain  Czechoslovakia  Soviet Union Not held
1978–79  France  Romania  Soviet Union  Spain  Morocco
1979–80  France  Romania  Italy  Morocco  Spain  Tunisia
1980–81  Romania  France  Soviet Union  Poland  West Germany  Portugal
1981–82  France  Italy  Romania  Morocco  Sweden
1982–83  Romania  Italy  Soviet Union  West Germany  Poland  Czechoslovakia
1983–84  France  Romania  Italy  Poland
 Morocco
 Spain
 Tunisia
Not held
1984–85  France  Soviet Union  Italy  Spain  Portugal  Netherlands
1985–87  France  Soviet Union  Romania  Tunisia
 Portugal
 Spain Not held
1987–89  France  Soviet Union  Romania  Spain  Poland  Bulgaria
1989–90  France A[b]  Soviet Union[b]  Romania[b]  Poland  Spain  Andorra
1990–92  France A  Italy  Romania  Germany
 Morocco
 Sweden
1992–94  France A  Italy  Romania  Poland
 Croatia
 Georgia
 Moldova
1995–97  Italy  France A  Romania  Netherlands
 Serbia and Montenegro
 Ukraine
 Hungary
 Austria

  1. ^ Promoted to First division
  2. ^ a b c Champions of First division

FIRA Tournament (1996–1999)

Year First Division Lower Division Champions
Winner Runner-up Third Relegated Second Division Third Division Fourth Division
1996–97  Spain  Portugal  Poland Not held
1997–98 Not held  Latvia  Luxembourg  Austria
1998–99  Russia  Germany
 Croatia
 Denmark
  Switzerland

Statistics

Nation 1st place, gold medalist(s) 2nd place, silver medalist(s) 3rd place, bronze medalist(s)
 France 25 5 -
 Romania 6 12 7
 Italy 1 9 8
 Soviet Union 1 3 3
 Spain 1 - 3
 Germany - 1 3
 Morocco - - 2
 Czechoslovakia - - 2

Current Tournaments (2000–present)

European Nations Cup (2000–2016)

Year First Division Lower Division Champions
Winner Runner-up Third Relegated Second Division Third Division Fourth Division
2000  Romania  Georgia  Morocco  Russia  Czech Republic  Slovenia
2001  Georgia  Romania  Russia  Poland Not held[4] Not held
2001–02  Romania  Georgia  Russia  Netherlands  Czech Republic[5]
Czech Republic
 Slovenia
2003–04  Portugal  Romania  Georgia  Spain  Ukraine  Moldova
2004–06  Romania  Georgia  Portugal  Ukraine  Spain  Latvia
2006–08  Georgia  Russia  Romania  Czech Republic  Germany  Sweden
2008–10  Georgia  Russia  Portugal  Germany [6]  Ukraine  Lithuania
2010  Romania  Georgia  Russia
2011  Georgia  Romania  Portugal  Ukraine [7]  Belgium  Sweden
2012  Georgia  Spain  Romania
2013  Georgia  Romania  Russia  Belgium [8]  Germany  Netherlands
2014  Georgia  Romania  Russia
2015  Georgia  Romania  Spain  Portugal  Belgium  Estonia
2016  Georgia  Romania  Russia

Rugby Europe International Championships (2016–)

First Format

Year Championship Trophy Conference 1 Conference 2 Development
Winner Runner-up Third Relegated Winner Runner-up Third Relegated Winners Relegated Winners Relegated Winner
2016–17  Romania  Georgia  Spain  Portugal  Netherlands   Switzerland  Ukraine  Czech Republic[a]  Malta  Luxembourg  Cyprus  Hungary[b]  Bosnia and Herzegovina[b]  Turkey  Slovakia[c]
2017–18  Georgia  Russia  Germany  Portugal  Netherlands  Czech Republic  Moldova  Lithuania[a]  Malta  Latvia  Andorra  Luxembourg[b]  Cyprus[b]  Estonia  Bulgaria[c]
2018–19  Georgia  Spain  Romania  Germany  Portugal[d]  Netherlands   Switzerland  Czech Republic  Ukraine[a]  Malta  Moldova  Bosnia and Herzegovina  Latvia[b]  Slovenia[b]  Slovakia  Turkey[c]
2019–20  Georgia  Spain  Romania  Belgium  Netherlands[d]   Switzerland  Ukraine
2020–21  Georgia  Romania  Portugal Not held
2021–22  Georgia  Romania  Spain  Russia[e]  Belgium[d]  Poland[d]  Germany[d]  Sweden[a]  Croatia[a]  Moldova[b]  Bulgaria[b]  Slovakia

  1. ^ a b c d e Promoted to Trophy
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Promoted to Conference 1
  3. ^ a b c Promoted to Conference 2
  4. ^ a b c d e Promoted to Championship
  5. ^ Disqualified and suspended due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine

Second Format

Year Championship Trophy Conference 1 Conference 2 Development
Winner Runner-up Third Relegated Winner Relegated Winners Relegated Winners Relegated Winner
2022–23  Georgia  Portugal  Romania   Switzerland  Czech Republic[a]  Israel  Finland  Serbia  Montenegro[b]  Austria[c]

  1. ^ Promoted to Trophy
  2. ^ Withdrawn
  3. ^ Promoted to Conference

Third Format

Year Championship Trophy Conference Development
Winner Runner-up Third Relegated Promoted Winner Relegated Winners Relegated Winner
2023–24  Georgia  Portugal  Spain  Poland   Switzerland

Statistics (2000–present)

All-time table

Pld W D L PF PA PD AVPPG Pts Win% Champs
 Georgia 125 107 5 13 4003 1395 +2609 32.02 454 85.6% 16
 Romania 125 85 2 38 3045 1884 +1161 24.36 347 68% 5
 Spain 115 46 4 64 2497 2604 −107 21.7 222 40% 0
 Portugal 110 48 4 58 2364 2367 -3 21.5 221 43.64% 1
 Russia 108 54 3 51 2526 2233 +293 23.4 232 50% 0
 Germany 45 6 1 38 600 1952 −1352 13.2 36 13.33% 0
 Belgium 40 9 1 30 644 1203 −559 16.1 51 22.5% 0
 Netherlands 35 8 0 27 515 1188 −673 14.7 50 22.86% 0
 Czech Republic 29 6 0 23 362 1075 −713 12.48 40 20.69% 0
 Ukraine 20 1 0 19 201 997 −796 10.05 15 5% 0
 Poland 10 1 0 9 126 381 -255 12.6 6 10% 0
 Morocco 5 3 0 2 94 69 +25 18.80 11 60% 0

Performance by team

Nation Winner Runner-up Third Place
 Georgia 16 5 1
 Romania 5 9 6
 Portugal 1 2 4
 Russia 0 3 6
 Spain 0 3 4
 Germany 0 0 1
 Morocco 0 0 1

Records (since 2000)

Updated as of 19 March 2023
Division 1A

Titles
Top division appearances
Wins
Draws
Losses
Points
Games without a loss
Games without a win

Other trophies

Several other trophies are contested within the main competition, mostly as long-standing fixtures between pairs of teams.

See also

References

  1. ^ Press Release - Rugby Europe AGM Twickenham, July 25, 2015 Archived August 25, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ a b c d "New Format for Rugby Europe Championship". Rugby Europe. 2023. Retrieved 12 February 2023.
  3. ^ RE:Championship z 8 drużynami! (Championship with 8 teams) (in Polish). (3 December 2021) Polski Zwiazek Rugby (Polish Rugby Union). Retrieved 8 February 2022.
  4. ^ Was played the first round of 2003 Rugby World Cup – European qualification
  5. ^ Was played as the second round of 2003 Rugby World Cup – European qualification
  6. ^ relegation and promotion on two year based ranking
  7. ^ relegation and promotion on two year based ranking
  8. ^ relegation and promotion on two year based ranking