Rugby Europe & Quality Competitions

Rugby Europe is an essential governing body for European mainly tier 2 and 3 levels and an affiliate of the World Rugby Organisation. It currently has 48 member rugby federations providing different season based rugby plus competitions that count as qualification for the Olympics, Rugby World Cup and other major tournaments for U.18, U.20, men and women in rugby 15s and the short game of rugby 7s. European tier 1 teams also enter their U.20, U.18 and 7s in the Rugby Europe framework. This highly successful rugby body has been responsible for teams like Georgia qualifying for the Rugby World Cup through the support and management invested and World Rugby recognising emerging teams and incorporating them in WR rankings and subsequent RWC qualifying matches which Rugby Europe also organises.
Incredibly, Rugby Europe was founded in 1934 but under the name of FIRA, Fédération Internationale de Rugby Amateur with its headquarters in Paris. In the 90s the FIRA decided to concentrate on its members being European and in 1999 FIRA added AER, Association of European Rugby to their existing name FIRA. Since the WR began to acknowledge the teams enrolled in FIRA-AER this brought about a further change in 2014 when FIRA-AER became Rugby Europe, this new shorter and concise title expressed more the promotion and development of rugby within Europe while collaborating with World Rugby on the global scale.

photo credits to Arvedui89, Wkipedia

The back story on why Rugby Europe, or FIRA as it was first known, began was that in 1931 France had been expelled from WR or IRFB (International Rugby Football Board) as it was called back then for rule infringements regarding non-amateur activities, that is, France was accused of paying players when this was strictly forbidden. So, 3 years later the FIRA was formed with France and 8 other founder rugby federations, Italy, Romania, Spain, Belgium, Portugal, Holland, Germany and surprisingly Catalonia. However, Catalonia were forced to merge with the Spanish Federation in 1941 on orders from General Franco. Even today the Catalonia Rugby Federation are still trying to reverse this forced merger with Spain as they claim founder member rights. The most important competition in FIRA was the European Nations Cup or ENC, naturally, France were usually the winners but Italy and Romania also had their day by winning it, once for Italy and 5 times for Romania. Eventually, the ENC competition came to and end when France and Italy joined the 6 Nations Tournament which is a tier 1 level competition and remarkably the oldest competition in the world as it began in 1883.

Rugby Europe co-ordinates all the tier 2 and 3 rugby matches with 5 divisions consisting of a minimum of 5 teams for its Championship, Trophy, Conference1, Conference 2 and Development playing 15s rugby. Each division operates 1 team promoted and 1 team relegated except for the winning team of the Championship Division as at the moment there is no higher league or competition to play in. Many say that the Rugby Europe Championship winners should qualify or at least have a play off match with the bottom team of the 6 Nations Tournament, however, for the moment it is not to be.

Recently, Rugby Europe elected their board members for a 4 year term and Romanian, Octavian Morariu an ex-N.8 player is re-elected as President of Rugby Europe, his father was a Romanian International rugby player. Mr. Morariu was also a member if the IOC, International Olympics Committee, the remaining 13 board members include Austrian born Veronika Muehlhofer, ex-rugby player for Leicester in the UK, Torino in Italy, in America in her university days and was Switzerland XVs coach, she is a qualified WR level 3 coach, CEO Swiss Rugby Federation until September 2021 after 8 years in charge and an alpine ski racer, quite an impressive CV.
The Rugby Europe Board certainly have a lot of experienced members and the fruit of their input is being continually revealed such as the quality live streaming of all matches and excellent marketing of all competitions raising the profile of rugby union in Europe beyond the tier 1 headliners.

In total Rugby Europe organise and stage around 80 matches for the different divisions and 20 competitions a year. There is also the beach and snow rugby men and women tournaments in development, the last snow rugby tournament was in Moscow, January, 2019 and won by Russia in temperatures of minus 10 °c. There were 8 teams present in 2 pools with the knockout stage on the 2nd day. The beach rugby tournament was held in earl August. Rugby Europe intends to expand this avenue of rugby further and have signed an agreement with Rugby Russia to stage further tournaments.

The 7s sector is well attended and emulates the 15s set up and for the Championship winners there is the extra prize of qualifying for the next Olympic Games. There is also the direct qualification via another competition specifically for a place at the Olympics along with a repechage tournament too. The European teams that have won a place at the Tokyo Olympics are; Women – France, Russia and Great Britain and Men - Ireland and Great Britain.
Rugby Europe was forced to penalise 3 countries in the run up to qualify for the RWC in Japan, 2019 as these teams fielded ineligible players according to the rules. This meant that Russia unexpectedly went to the RWC 2019 after Spain, Romania and Belgium were handed points deductions and thereby forfeiting a possible qualification. The scandal erupted over an alleged biased Romanian referee who was in charge of the game between Spain v Belgium in which he made decisions that would favour his native Romania Rugby to win qualification. The ensuing arguments over the result and behaviour exposed the infamous ineligible player situation.

As mentioned there are 48 rugby union federations involved with Rugby Europe, however, 2 teams are inactive. In 2014 Armenia’s membership was suspended due to no team available for scheduled matches and Greece Rugby also suspended in the same year as it lost its government recognition that is required by rugby laws for teams to participate. To follow up and obtain more information on Rugby Europe visit the website:, or click HERE to obtain more information about the other amazing tournament, alth
ough not organised by the Rugby Europe