Formed 2004 ... Herts 7s U14 Runners-up 2005 ... North Herts U14 team, Herts Youth Games 2005 runners-up (coached by Letchworth)... Herts Superteams U14 Runners-up 2005 ... Herts SuperTeams "Fairplay" winners 2006 ... Rochford 10s U17 Champions 2006 ... East Midlands 10s U17 Runners-up 2007 ... East Midlands 10s U17 "Fairplay" winners 2007 ... National 10s U17 5th place and "Fairplay" winners 2007 ... Herts 7s U17 Plate runners-up 2007 ... National 7s U17 Plate winners 2007 ... RFU "President's XV" Award winners 2007 ... Herts Superteams winners 2007 ... Midlands 10s U18 Runners-up 2008 ... National 10s U18 4th place 2008 ... North Herts U11 team, Herts Youth Games 2008 runners-up (coached by Letchworth girls) ... London and SE 7s U18 Plate runners-up 2008 ... Herts 7s U18s runners-up 2008 ... National 7s U18s quarter-finalists 2008 ... Gloucester City 10s U18 Bowl runner-up (6th) 2009 ... Worthing 10s U18 Plate runner-up 2009 ... National 7s U18 Plate winners 2009... Worthing 10s U15 Plate winners 2010... Worthing 10s U18 Shield winners 2010... Herts 7s U15 and U18 Bowl runners-up 2010... National 7s U18 Plate runners-up 2010...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

European season reaches its climax

The World Cup may be on he horizon, but for most of Europe their international season is reaching its climax now. Last weekend the XVs season came to an end with Spain winning their third European title, beating Italy 31-13 - and this weekend its the Sevens.

Remarkably Spain have finished in the top three ten times since FIRA began running an annual XVs tournament for women's teams 15 years ago - a record that is superior to every other European nation. Admittedly England do not always enter, and they and France normally send understrength squads, but without doubt Spain can claim to be in Europe's top six, and possibly top four, based on the results in the last Six Nations.

It all makes their absence from the Six Nations seem all the more unjust. Italy replaced them three years ago now and, for all of Italy's recent improvements, Spain have beaten them every time the two nations have met. Such is the politics of Europe's rugby - you do not always get what you deserve.

Another oddity about European rugby is the attitude of the home nations which does, at times, seem arrogant and dismissive. FIRA's annual tournament is vital to the development of the game across the continent, and this was the fourth time France have hosted it. Italy have also hosted four tournaments, Spain three, Sweden  two... how often has the tournament been held in any of the home nations?

The answer - remarkably - is never. The continent's biggest rugby nations have never hosted FIRA's annual festival, or shown any interest in doing so. Whatever this says about England, Scotland, Wales or Ireland's attitude towards the development of the game in the emerging nations of Europe its clearly not very supportive. Perhaps the RFU/RFUW don't really want anyone else to play?

Not only have the British and Irish Unions never host a European XVs championship, they have never hosted a Sevens either. Fortunately for the continent's rugby future countries like Serbia, Bosnia, and - this year - Romania, Denmark and Russia  are happy to step in and fill the gap.

While for six countries there is the small matter of a World Cup in almost exactly three months time, but there are nearly 40 active rugby playing nations in Europe and for most of them it is this weekend that is the highlight  of their year. 24 nations will be competing in Europe's Division A and B Championships in Bucharest and Odense, all looking to move up the ladder and maybe one day win a place in the Top Ten, who this year will compete in Moscow in July. For countries like Austria and Belgium this could be next year, while for Luxembourg and Lithuania its an ambition that is a bit further off, but for all them this will be the peak of their rugby year - even maybe rugby career - and for every follower of the game this is a wonderful picture of rugby as a truly international game. Pity that no-one in any British or Irish Union seems to see it that way...

You can see the full draw for this weekend's tournaments - and the Top Ten (which includes England) - on the FIRA website. Click here.

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