The Second Six Nations

portugal georgia

February is a very busy month in the rugby calendar. The Super 15 kicks off in the Southern Hemisphere and both European club rugby and the Six Nations are in full flow. In terms of developing rugby nations, the second tier Six Nations, known as the Euro Nations Cup (ENC) and organised by European rugby’s FIRA-AER governing body, has also just had its third round of fixtures.

The six participating countries are Belgium, Georgia, Portugal, Romania, Russia and Spain. All except Belgium have appeared in at least one edition of the Rugby World Cup. Georgia have had the most impressive recent results of these sides, losing admirably to Six Nations opponents at the 2007 (14-10 to Ireland) and 2011 (15-6 to Scotland) tournaments.

This year’s competition has been fierce and most fans’ only knowledge of the 2013 event will be of an ugly brawl during Belgium and Georgia’s match in Brussels. Back to the rugby and all contests have been tight affairs, with Romania’s 29-14 home win over Russia being the largest winning margin from the nine matches so far.

A Belgium side made up largely of amateur players and much fancied as the whipping boys of the tournament after only gaining promotion to second tier European rugby last year, came close to a famous win over Georgia, eventually succumbing 17-13 to a team filled with players from France’s illustrious Top 14 league, including Mamuka Gorgodze.

After three rounds, Romania and Georgia are joint leaders, on twelve points, and are unbeaten with three wins. The two Eastern European sides face each other in Bucharest in the last round of matches, in what could be an intriguing ENC Grand Slam decider. Spain prop up the table after two losses and a solitary draw against Belgium. No side has recorded a four try bonus point, highlighting how close this year’s matches have been.

ENC fixtures take place on the same weekends as the Six Nations ties and sides also play each other home and away in alternate years. In the fourth round of matches, to be held on March 9th, Spain travel to Tbilisi to face Georgia, Belgium host Romania in Brussels and Portugal take on Russia in Lisbon.

The final league positions in 2014, which includes all ENC results in 2013 and 2014, will largely determine the remaining European qualifying spots for the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Whilst the top two sides will automatically qualify for England 2015, the team that finishes third will have to play a series of playoff ties to stand a chance of joining them.

The first of these will be against the best lower ranked European nation that has made it through a series of league and knockout matches. Norway, Cyprus, Israel, the Netherlands and Germany are currently top of the lower level European rugby divisions (2D, 2C, 2B, 2A and 1B respectively) and are just some of the other European countries that have a chance of making it to this stage of the 2015 Rugby World Cup qualification process.

The winner of this tie will progress to the semi-final of the IRB’s Repechage tournament and will be drawn against the remaining African team. The other semi-final will be between the last Americas and Asian qualifiers. The two finalists will fight it out for the one remaining Rugby World Cup spot – Romania were the victors in 2010, beating Uruguay in a home and away playoff, and made it through as the 20th qualifying team to compete at the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

ENC, and other European (including Women’s, 7’s and age group rugby), results and fixtures can be found at the FIRA-AER website and for a detailed explanation of Rugby World Cup qualification please visit www.rugbyworldcup.com.

Did you know?
In 2002 Georgia played Russia in a ENC tie in Tbilisi, in front of more than 60,000 fans. Passionate affairs, these second tier European rugby ties.

By Alastair Pickering
@AMP_Rugby

13 thoughts on “The Second Six Nations

  1. goot post! always happy to hear about the expansion of the game. maybe we could get some of their refs too, to replace our lot..

    1. Agreed – read with great interest. Don’t really hear about this competition in our press. Come to think about it, we don’t even really hear about the Saxons, our press seem to think that there is only one England team!

      1. I think some of our press don’t even know what rugby is. If it’s not a round ball, or hit with a racket, bat or club, their not interested.

  2. Very interesting post. Would love the chance to host some of these games over here and let us show them our support.

  3. One of my favourite things about RWC ’11 was watching Georgia play (on TV. I wasn’t there, sadly). They were exciting and fun to see, and in terms of effort they were streets ahead of England’s side

  4. Yes, thanks for the post. A young friend had an american stay with him in Dublin, now coaches an american college team back in the US, rugby union very popular, expect big advances in skills and teams.

    1. David, We have been hearing about this imminent American explosion of Rugby for many years now, and I am sceptical that it will ever happen. Or at least, ever rise above their current level of potentially giving some of the Top nations a scare form time to time.

      I think that Georgia, Russia, Canada or even Romania have a better chance, as success hinges on getting popular support and the subsequent sponsorship. I don’t believe there is room in the US for this, behind Football, Baseball, Hockey, Basketball, Track and now even (real) Football gaining more of a foothold.

  5. In my opinion Georgia are the 7th best side in The Northern Hemisphere and I for one would love to see our premier competition become The & Nations but I feeel it is either a long time off or will never happen.

  6. Great piece. I love reading and hearing about these second tier nations and glad that the powers that be are trying to develop them further.

    I’ve got to side with David in his belief that there will be a noticeable advancement in the coming years. Whilst I do acknowledge Blub’s sentiments that we have been promised this explosion for many years the difference this time is the inclusion of rugby 7s in the Olympics. The funding that national federations receive from nationals Olympic committees on the back of this can really help them develop further and whilst it may not be directly for the 15-man game, it will almost certainly have an indirect effect. If you don’t believe that the Olympics have an effect on a sport just have a look at the reaction to wrestling possibly being dropped from the Games (announced by the IOC earlier this month). That has resulted in the international federation president being usurped and a complete change in attitude to try and regain recognition.

    1. Nick W, you may well be right on the Olympics issue. I had not considered that.

      Having said that, I wonder whether this may strengthen the Sevens side of US Rugby only. The reason I ask this is not to be contrary, but this season on the Sevens circuit we appear to have a quickly levelling field, with the “stronger” teams starting to lose more often to the emerging teams. Kenya is the highlight here, but others are also coming up with good performances, but it is difficult to see these deeds being brought into the XV a side game.

      Incidentally, has everyone seen the clips of this US Team Sprinter in their Sevens team? Well worth a look on YouTube if not.

  7. Great piece. It really is time for the bottom placed 6n team to have to play the top ENC team in a promotion relegation battle.
    7s at the Olympics is a Great Leap Forward for the sport – fingers crossed that the major networks in the states will show it (which depends on how the Eagles do)

    1. NickC I like this idea although you could have a ‘shooting fish in a barrel’ scenario you could end up with a few surprises.

      If you use Cricket as an example they were going change their World Cup to the top Test playing sides which is an awful idea (they have changed now) as you would get the likes of Ireland and Kenya sneak the odd upset and thats what keeps sport so interesting.

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