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Romania v Belgium

Men's Championship Preview: Road to Paris

The Men’s Rugby Europe Championship 2024: What to expect on the road to Paris

We are only a few weeks from the Men’s Rugby Europe Championship 2024, and the eight contestants are in their final preparations. Georgia, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, and Poland will fight for the crown, and fans will enjoy the best of European rugby for five weekends, finishing at Stade Jean Bouin in Paris for the final day of action.

But before we dive into what to expect, let’s recap what happened in 2023. Georgia defeated Portugal in the final, securing their fifteenth title, in a superb showdown played in Badajoz. Romania, after falling to Portugal in the pool stages and Georgia in the semis, turned things around with an impressive win against Spain in the bronze final. Netherlands secured 5th place, followed by Germany, whilst Belgium and Poland locked horns in the seventh-place play-off.

For those new to the Men’s Rugby Europe Championship, the team with the lowest culminated overall ranking points after two seasons will face relegation.

So, what’s new with the teams? What can we expect after a thrilling 2023?

Georgia: Powerhouses looking to the future

The 15-time champions will certainly want to continue their tight grip rule that started in 2018.

In the last Rugby Europe Championship, Georgia was flawless, winning all five games, conceding only a handful of tries, and outsmarting and outmuscling the opposition. They became champions by defeating Portugal, who they later met later in the year at the Rugby World Cup in France, where the two teams played out a thrilling draw.

The vibrant set piece and that special threat of Niniahsvili-Tabutsadze combo are just two factors for spectators to keep turning up to watch any Lelos match, and we are sure that you are in for a treat in 2024. Luka Matkava continues to catch the eye as the talented number 10 continues his rise under the captaincy of Merab Sherikadze.

Portugal: Building on World Cup momentum

The Lobos had a spectacular 2023, as they had their second-best season ever in the Rugby Europe Championship and won their first-ever game in a World Cup. Now, as Patrice Lagisquet's time is over, Portugal need to keep trucking on their way to glory.

The 2024 Rugby Europe Championship will play a significant role in the next stage of their development, as a couple of players must rise to the challenge with icons such as Samuel Marques and Mike Tadjer hanging up their boots, it will be up to the likes of Storti, Costa, and Appleton to ensure the electric rugby keeps coming.

The Portuguese produced some of the best pieces of action in 2023 and it is expected that they keep entertaining fans when the competition starts in February.

Romania: A new Romanian Dawn

Romania had a lukewarm 2023 by their own admissions, and with a new head coach at the helm, they have high hopes for this season. David Gerard, former assistant coach to Portugal, has been chosen to lead Romania to a new chapter.

Even if it didn’t end in glory in 2023, Romania still showed us they have some quality operators in the side capable of some magic, mainly their frightening rolling maul, pure abrasive physicality (Cristi Chirica was the unit with the most gain-line wins last year), and desire to indulge in running rugby.

The Oaks were the last team to lift the cup before Georgia’s five year hot-streak with consecutive Championship wins, and regaining the status of top contender, will be pivotal for their long-term goals.

Spain: Leones hungry for greatness

After overcoming the disappointment of sitting out of the last World Cup, Spain regained strength in 2023 but 2024 will be the official restart of their dreams and aspirations to become the top contender for the title, quietly working in the background, don’t be surprised to see a super-charged Spain.

Pablo Bouza has taken the reins as head coach, and it’s safe to say that we are in for a treat with the talents within the squad, as the new staff will mold a promising new generation.

Matheo Triki, Gonzalo Vinuesa, Alberto Carmona, Lucas Santamaría, and Mario Pichardie are just some of the names to take note of to remember when the Rugby Europe Championship starts.

Netherlands: On the rise

Netherlands have improved as a team for the past two seasons, and in 2023, fell short of accomplishing a historical upset, as they only lost by eight points against Spain in Madrid. The Dutch, under the experienced Lyn Jones, have become a real threat, one that is starting to win fans and plaudits on a global scale.

But do the Oranje have what it takes to climb to the next level? Many expect so, and there are a couple of reasons to expect great things from them: a forward pack that can be a nuisance in the lineout, a ravenous hunger in the scrum; and an agile and electrifying backline.

There’s still a good way to go, but how exciting would it be if the Netherlands could provide a couple of great surprises come February and set a real marker on their World Cup qualification ambitions.

Germany: rebuilding in style

2023 was the year that Germany came back to the Rugby Europe Championship, and what a comeback they delivered, as they finished in 6th place. The Schwarze Adler showcased a brilliant set-piece exit, swiftly catching off-guard their rivals and creating outstanding attacking combos.

A successful year deems that they have another one, and head coach Mark Kuhlmann will want to keep building on and challenging the top contenders, a feat that some didn’t think was possible in 2023.

2024 will be another test of fire for Germany, but there’s enough heart and mind to do overcome adversity and surprise fans again. You can also expect a red-hot atmosphere for their home game against the Champions, already selling the majority of their tickets for the encounter at the Paul Greifzu Stadion.

Belgium: To believe in the top-4

A new beginning for Belgium, as Laurent Dossant takes charge of the Diables Noirs, and the Rugby Europe Championship 2024 is the perfect stage to show how far they can go.

The 2023 REC didn’t end with the most desired outcome, as they finished in 7th place, but there were still positives to take into account, as their scrum looked fresh, and their aerial ability challenged the opposition.

The younger generations will add an extra exciting feature to a seasoned squad ready to reach new heights, and the sight of Théo Adaba or Paul Gérard playing side-by-side with Robin Vermeersch, Dries de Keyser, Henri Dequenne, and Samuel Opsomer is something to look out for.

Poland: Capitalizing on the big moments

Poland will be hungry to have a second crack at the Championship after a maiden appearance last season. They produced a couple of fighting displays and certainly showed their potential. Their ambition was both palpable and inspirational, fighting against the very best and not accepting defeat until the final whistle.

Head coach Chris Hitt is conscious of the mission and how vital it will be to not only impress Polish fans but to grow as a unit and win games, as they look to avoid relegation.

Poland has been graced with some unique players like Piotr Zeszutek and Ross Cooke, and there’s enough belief to cross the finish line, they just need to grasp their opportunities when they come around.

All eight teams will heading to Paris on March 17 for a very special Finals day at Stade Jean Bouin, tickets for the event are on sale now.

For more match information and tickets for the pool phases can be found from the tournament page

By Fransisco Isaac

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