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One’s to Watch Men’s Rugby Europe Championship 2024

The Men’s Rugby Europe Championship 2024 is fast approaching with it kicking off on February 3 and the challengers are ready to do battle once again.

Before it all gets under way we have a look at who are the players that will be looking to produce the goods on the international stage.  Writer Francisco Isaac takes his pick from the competing countries with one player from each nation.

Davit Niniashvili (Georgia)

A magician that can pull rabbit out of the hat with just a snap of his fingers! Davit Niniashvili has captured fans' attention since his debut in 2020, and his class from fullback or wing has pushed Georgia to become a real threat in attacking rugby terms. The 21-year-old will pull out all stops to help the Lelos reach Paris as the top contenders and focus on renewing their Championship crown.

He has been exceptional in the Top14 this season and continues his meteoric rise as one of the most exciting Georgian players for many years. He is capable of playing on the wing, as he does for Lyon OU, or as full back as he does for Los Lelos.

He first made his mark on the European scene in the Rugby Europe U18 Championship in Kaliningrad in 2019, where Georgia lifted the title.

Oval Insight stat from the 2023 REC: Try assists (5). Niniashvili was the top try-assister of the 2023 season, ranking an impressive five key passes to his teammates. This is why he is seen as one of the top threats in the Rugby Europe Championship, and he will certainly be at it again in 2024.

Rodrigo Marta (Portugal)

Of course, Raffaele Storti has been on fire for Portugal and ProD2 AS Béziers-Hérault, but we just can’t leave out the player who set alight the 2023 Rugby Europe Championship, Rodrigo Marta. The winger ended up as the unit with most critical plays created, slicing through defensive blocks time and time again. Marta is one of a kind. His speed is also matched by his combat skills, as he doesn’t go down when he is tackled, keeping the momentum on.  

Oval Insight stat from the 2023 REC: Defenders beaten. Rodrigo Marta eluded, escaped, and side-stepped out of twenty-nine incoming tacklers, helping the Lobos to reach the try-area fluidly last season. 

Cristi Chirica (Romania)

Romania will make their mission to reach the Championship final this year under new stewardship, and to achieve that goal they will need Cristi Chirica in his best form. The powerful number eight can unlock the toughest and most soundproof blockade. The spectacular combination of his running skills and imposing physicality have more than once helped Romania get over the line and has become an essential asset for his country. The amazing intercept-try against Spain in 2023 still lives in our memories, and Oak fans hope he does it again.

Oval Insight stat from the 2023 REC: Meters in contact (68m). The Romanian number-eight is a dreadful problem for any tackler, as he doesn’t just drop to the floor when tackled, keeping his legs moving and trying to force an unexpected line break.  

Wolf Van Dijk (Netherlands)

Netherlands has been improving its REC status in the last couple of years, and it is mainly due to a growth in their defensive work, an area in which Wolf van Dijk has benefited his country. The loose forward is a thorn for the opposite team, always on the prowl and looking to take down any incoming threat for Netherlands, putting up a good show of physical dominance. 

Oval Insight stat from the 2023 REC: Sixty-eight tackles were made by the Dutch flanker, striking his targets with precision and physicality. He ended with only one missed tackle, showcasing his ability as a lethal defender.  

Vicent del Hoyo (Spain)

Spain heads to the 2024 Rugby Europe Championship with a fresh setup, as they are looking to finally show their talents, and hooker Vicent del Hoyo will be one of the standouts in the Leones camp. His heart holds his team together in make-or-break moments, always ready to take a stand and ready to work non-stop even if it means no resting. He is a passionate unit and someone who doesn’t turn his face from a battle.

 Oval Insight stat from the 2023 REC: Lineout throws. Without a good lineout, you can’t have a steady attacking platform, and Vicent del Hoyo’s thirty-seven lineout throws (95% accuracy) helped Spain build something from the set-piece.

Florian Remue (Belgium)

Belgium’s new youth is one of the cornerstones for a more promising future, and Florian Remue is one of those newcomers that has the talent to be a star for next ten years. The utility back is a special player, capable of running and crashing through the gain-line. Remue can also be eccentric, quickly stepping in and out to build something special for his team.

Oval Insight stat from the 2023 REC: Lineout turnovers. How many times have you seen a centre/wing to finish at the top of the turnover rank? Florian Remue completed seven breakdown steals to help Belgium out of dire situations. His timing was perfect when jackaling, ripping opposition possession in an instant.

Piotr Zeszutek (Poland)

The Player of the Pool Stages in 2023 (as voted by the fans) is, without a doubt, one of the most exciting units to follow, and his impact will be key for Poland to avoid relegation. Zeszutek’s off-the-ball work is outstanding and inspiring, as it motivates his teammates to follow his lead and stay focused on the mission. His enforcing capabilities can bully ball carriers to make mistakes, and it can play a vital role in the most competitive games. 

Oval Insight stat from the 2023 REC: Crossing the gain-line. Amongst the three hundred players who played a game in the 2023 Rugby Europe Championship, Piotr Zeszutek finished as the one who crossed the gain line the most, completing thirty-seven in fifty-nine carries. An unstoppable force to be reckoned with.   

Edoardo Stella (Germany)

Germany had a great 2023 Rugby Europe Championship, as they were able to bounce back from three losses in the pool stage to finish in 6th and stay well ahead in the relegation battle. Edoardo Stella was vital for that success, as the utility back scored forty-nine points, finishing as the runner-up in the top point scorer standings, punishing Germany’s opponents with well-placed kicks and a sharpshooter goal-kicking. He can play as a fly-half, wing, or fullback, and his game-knowledge will immensely benefit his side. 

Oval Insight stat from the 2023 REC: Penalty goals converted. The flamboyant back landed ten successful penalty kicks, adding thirty points to Germany’s tally in their 2023 run.

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

Photos: Dennis van de Sande, Ettiene Michaels, Luis Cabelo, Georgian Rugby Union. 

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