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Team of the Men's Championship 2023

Two months and twenty international matches, the Rugby Europe Championship 2023 has drawn the curtain for another season, and with it, Georgia remained in power after successfully defeating Portugal in the Grand Final.

At least an average of 32 players were played by each nation, meaning that 240 athletes had a chance to show why they deserved to play at Test Match level. But who were the main stars? We selected a combined XV (plus a power bench) to make the list.  

Here is a short explanation of how we picked the 23 players:

  • The final standings dictated how many selected players each side had, as Poland, Belgium, and Germany allocated one, while Netherlands and Spain two, Romania four, Portugal five, and Georgia, the undefeated champions, six.

  • The Fans Player of the Tournament list have some other names that don’t show up in this list, as we needed to fill each position accordingly.

  • Stats, minutes played, and the impact they had on their teams were key for the selection of these 23 names.


For loose-heads and tight-heads, we picked two of the most resilient and hardworking players in the competition, starting Romania’s Alexandru Savin, and Spain’s Joaquin Dominguez. Both had a great tournament, conceding no scrum penalties, and muscling up their team’s front-row.

At hooker, veteran and legend Shalva Mamukashvili is unquestionably our pick, as he continued his run as a set-piece master and a stern voice inside the Georgian squad.


Line-out king Joshua Peters and talented enforcer José Madeira would be a masterful lock pairing for any team worldwide, as both can deal effectively with problems from the opposing sides, be it at the breakdown, tackle, or set-piece.

Joshua Peters amassed six line-out steals, and two turnovers, completing 93% of his tackle attempts, while José Madeira managed to jackal the egg on three occasions, scoring a 95% score in his tackling duties.


If you faced this back-row trio, you would rather want to stay home, as Georgia’s Giorgi Tsutskiridze, Portugal’s Nicolás Martins, and Romania’s Cristi Chirica, dominated in their roles throughout the whole competition.

Chirica in action for Romania

We couldn’t only pick one stat that each rocked, as all of them were just phenomenal in different areas: Nicolás Martins finished the competition with 100% effective tackles (51 attempts successfully done); Giorgi Tsutskiridze was also perfect in his defensive duties, while Cristi Chirica finished with five tries, two interceptions and turnovers, and 185 meters made.

Their unwavering physicality was key to how well their teams progressed in the Championship, drawing attention from pundits and fans.


In the halfback position, Vasil Lobzhanidze was given the spot in the XV, but Samuel Marques (who figures on our Power Bench) trailed very close behind the Lelos international. In the end, what made the difference was Lobzhanidze’s role in Georgia’s 2023 Grand Slam, turning the tempo and speeding up whenever his team needed, creating good chances for the Lelos to reach the try-area.

And who pairs with Lobzhanidze? Well, his teammate Tedo Abzhandadze deserves the ticket, as the first five-eight pushed pulled out of his rugby “hat” some of the most majestic plays or out-wide passes of the tournament, assisting in six Georgian tries.


What about Taylor Gontineac? Romania’s nº12 was just pure fun to watch, not only because of the six tries scored, but also due to how he easily sliced up, over and over again, the opposition’s defense, being capable to create problems against Portugal. Romania felt his absence in the semi and final of the Championship.

As for José Lima, the experienced outside centre had one of his best international seasons ever, forcing six clean breaks, assisting his teammates five times, and amassing 146 meters, proving to be pivotal for Portugal.


What do Akaki Tabutsadze and Rodrigo Marta have in common? Both broke their country's individual try record and were first and second place in the Rugby Europe Championship 2023 try-scorer table. 14 tries, 600 meters ran, 23 clean breaks, 41 defenders beaten, and a truly frightening menace for anyone on the other side of the pitch.

Nuno Sousa Guedes has to be in there, Player of the Tournament voted by fans, and a true maestro. The fullback was instrumental for Portugal's counter attack strategy, unlocking "doors" for Marta, Pinto to reach the try-line.


Front-row: Belgium’s Romain Pinte, Netherland’s Andrew Darlington for props, and Lobos Mike Tadjer as hooker, would be a sublime front-row sub with the power to shift the momentum of any match.

Utility Forwards: Adrian Motoc, and Christopher Raymond were standouts for Romania and Netherlands, especially the number-eight as he finished as the top jackler (9), and the forward with more defenders beaten, and clean breaks. Piotr Zeszutek: 2023 was Poland's first ever season in the Rugby Europe Championship, and it was the perfect stage for Piotr Zeszutek to show what he is made of. 18 advantage line won, 3 tries scored, 98 metres ran and a 93% tackle effectiveness rate, making an impressive campaign.

Backline: Samuel Marques can change the outcome of any game, and his role in Portugal’s semifinal win is the perfect example of it, as he scored 17 of the 27 points. Germany’s Edoardo Stella and Poland’s Ross Cooke are backline units that can play in more than one position and proved to be two of the most influential players for both sides. 

By Francisco Isaac
Pictures: Luis Cabelo, Dennis van de Sande, Walter Delgrimo 

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