The most recent successful clubs in Poland are Ogniwo Sopot and Master Pharm Łódź that have dominated Polish rugby for the last decade. Sopot has an impressive record of winning 11 championships between 1987 and 2021, however, the most Ekstraliga championship wins belongs to AZS-AWF Warsaw with 15 titles to their credit with the last one in 2008. Unfortunately, this record championship winner club now plays in the 2nd tier of Polish rugby.
At a national team level Poland Men’s 15s compete in the Rugby Europe Trophy League and have strong aspirations to win promotion to the RE Championship League and therefore will qualify to compete for a prestigious RWC place in the future. Women’s Rugby 7s has had more success on a national level with a silver medal award and narrowly missing out on qualifying for the Japan Olympic Rugby 7s but the U.18 girls swept away all competition to win the gold medal in the RE Trophy division. The success of the women’s teams will certainly keep rugby in the headlines and maintain this surge of new interest in rugby through all levels for both women and men.
Poland’s growth and interest in rugby has been hindered by world events with the main one being the post WWII Soviet regime which banned playing rugby abroad for a while. When Gorbachov’s Perestroika and Glasnost periods came into effect Poland regained independence in 1989 and had to restart the country, by 2004 Poland had joined the European Union and this helped rugby, especially with holding tournaments with non-Polish teams competing. So, development of rugby has been slowed significantly but today we see the results of the studious and determined governing bodies to make inroads to successful rugby playing at all levels. One of the challenges that the PZR (Polish Rugby Football Union) had to overcome was dispelling the myth that rugby was a violent and dangerous game, people in Poland understood that it was a hooligan’s environment and shunned it. The PZR’s ‘Get Into Rugby’ campaign was a hit and more and more youngsters are experiencing the thrill and joy of rugby which teaches team work, accepts all kinds of players in size or stature, respect and instils passion. World Rugby which oversees the RWC also collaborates with the PZR to encourage more ex-players to take coaching courses and offers the all important financial backing to facilitate such programs. There is a national shortage of qualified rugby referees in Poland, so, if you are one and want some international experience get in touch with the PZR.
Apart from the major home and international competitions there are several amateur rugby tournaments held throughout the country on a yearly basis which are ideal for club end od season tours. The longest running rugby festival is the WRF or Warsaw Rugby Festival which attracts international teams for a weekend of social rugby along with rugby’s tradition of social drinking, it takes place near the end of May. A month later in the 3rd week of June is the Krakow Rugby Festival which has been running since 2016 and features pitch-side entertainment, bars, food, DJ and Tournament host. Hundreds of rugby players from all over the world descend on these 2 cities either with a club tour or summer rugby friends team to play rugby and have a lot of fun when not playing rugby. The KRF offers unlimited beer ‘n cider for the entire weekend too, now there’s an important rugby tradition highlighted, they also invite travelling referees to come and officiate the games as well as joining in the fun. If you prefer the sand and sea then the one day Sopot Beach Rugby Tournament is for you, this is held every year at the end of July. All of the above tournaments have men, women and special categories such Vets or Non-Rugby Player category as in the SBR. The KRF and WRF play rugby 10s with all the qualifiers on the 1st day and all finals on the 2nd and last day. It has to be said that every year there is always a new venue holding a tournament whether it’s local, national or international, youngsters to senior or vets and more recently Touch Rugby, Walking Rugby and Wheelchair Rugby the popularity of rugby is expanding fast in Poland and continues to rise.
It is not in any way exaggerated to say that Poland rugby will reach the goal of challenging for a place in the RWC in the future as rugby has a positive foothold on becoming a leading sport with all the hard work the Polish RFU, clubs, sponsors, coaches and players are contributing to this glorious and honourable game of rugby.
Consider Poland for your next club tour to experience that rugby spirit and very good quality beer, you will not be disappointed.