In comparison to football, basketball and other sports, rugby is by no means popular in Europe. But just like other countries rugby fans in Europe are passionate, friendly and welcoming. It can therefore certainly still prove a great place to play rugby, meet wonderful people and even learn a new language. Europe is one of the most multicultural parts of the world making it a melting pot for all kinds of people. The rugby clubs are no different, here you will make friends and memories to last a lifetime.
Outside of the UK, the most popular rugby nations are the other members of the 6 Nations competition, France and Italy. But rugby in the rest of Europe is on the rise and could provide the perfect home for your overseas rugby adventure. There has always been a strong appetite for travel to Western Europe but recently there has been a spike in the popularity of the East. Rugby playing nations such as Romania and Georgia can offer a wildly different experience for much less. This page will outline the most popular countries in Europe to play rugby.
Today it is very easy to get around Europe, with the well-connected Eurail which links 28 countries together. Further, cheap flight prices between countries on low cost airlines make anywhere in Europe a great base if looking to access all the continent has to offer.
Play rugby in Europe to discover the history, culture, food and people of this region on an incredible overseas rugby adventure.
It’s well known in the rugby world that France is where the money is, having seen some of the games greats head to Europe. You may not be on the same pay package as Jonny Wilkinson or Matt Giteau but for some of you there are definitely monetary rewards to be had in the French club game.
There is much more to rugby in France, famous for the joué style of play in the past and more recently with big attritional forward packs. France is a great place to learn new facets to your rugby game. To give you an idea of the high level of competition, France back rower Gregory Aldritt went from playing in Fédérale 1 reserves to the 2019 World Cup in just two years.
The two professional leagues at the top of French rugby are the Top 14 and Rugby Pro D2, the world’s best financially supported second tier rugby union league. Below this the ‘amateur’ game comes into play. The structure is slightly confusing but the good news is that there are hundreds of clubs to play for. Firstly there is Fédérale 1 which is a national competition that is split into 4 pools of 12, totalling 48 teams. Below this Fédérale 2 has 8 regional pools of 12 with 96 teams represented. The fifth division of French rugby is Fédérale 3. The competition involves 168 clubs competing in 14 pools of 12. Lastly, you have the Réserves that are split into two competitions with 264 teams involved. As it is clear, there are plenty of clubs to choose from across the entire country.
It is fair to say that rugby is most popular in the Southern regions of France as seen by the representation in both the Top 14 and D2. Find yourself in the south or le Midi as the French colloquially call it. Anywhere from the Riviera to the Pyrenees. Whether it’s history, culture, landscapes, food or beaches you desire, France has it all.
If you prefer the city life, Paris is one like no other. It lives up to expectations and so much more. Stroll along the Champs-Elysees and other monument line boulevards taking in a city that oozes class and sophistication.
Rugby in Italy has seen a considerable rise since their inclusion into the 6 Nations in 2000. The country’s appetite for rugby has had a trickle down effect into the club game.
The Top 12 is the premier tier of national rugby competition in Italy. This is a national competition however currently the most southerly represented city is Rome. Serie A is the next rung down the ladder. The competition is divided into three equally ranked territorial pools of 10 teams. You then have Serie B, which is divided into four regional pools of 12 teams. The fourth tier of Italian rugby is Serie C and again is also divided into regional pools, this time of six teams.
Aside from rugby, Italy is one of the most beautiful countries in Europe if not the world. Home to abounding works of art and architecture, not to mention the food! Play rugby in this corner of Europe, learn some new rugby skills and tasty dishes all in the same season.
Spanish Rugby is organised into three main leagues. The best teams play in the Division de Honor, which is made up of 12 clubs. The bottom team at the end of the season is relegated to Division de Honor B, which is split into three regional groups, north, east and south. Outside of these two competitions there are also 12 other regional leagues. In total there are 332 rugby clubs in Spain.
The Spanish club teams compete in a domestic cup each year, known as the Copa del Rey. The winners of the Honor Division then play the winners of the Copa del Rey in the Spanish Rugby Super Cup. The prize is a spot in the European Challenge Cup Qualifying tournament, the second tier of European rugby competition.
You can find clubs in the three biggest cities Barcelona, Valencia and Madrid but also in the sun baked plains. Spain is a country devoted to the good life, enjoy the incredible food then relax with a siesta. The landscapes are diverse and culture electrifying.
Rugby has a small but dedicated following in Germany. Club rugby is organised into four tiers. On top there is the Rugby Bundesliga comprising 16 teams which compete initially in two regional leagues (North/East and South/West). 26 teams compete in the 2nd Rugby Bundesliga, split into North, East West and South regions. There are 60 teams in Regionalligen, the third level and another 30 in the Rugby-Verbandsliga, the fourth tier.
There aren’t many regions of Germany that don’t have a rugby club. The biggest rugby city is Berlin where there are 16 teams across the top three leagues. The capital of Germany is a party goers paradise, you will undoubtedly have a few sleepless nights here. Berlin’s has a laid back lifestyle whilst being culturally vibrant. A wondrous European centre.
On the opposite side of Germany you can find the university town of Heidelberg, one of the centres of rugby union. Here you will find four of the 16 Bundesliga clubs, as well as some more in the lower leagues amongst a population of approximately 160,000. Hannover is also another rugby union capital in Germany, home to the country’s first rugby team founded in 1878. Germany is one of the best places to play rugby in Europe.
Rugby union is one of the most popular sports in Georgia, particularly in the south. The national team often sells out their home games at the 65,000 seat stadium in Tbilisi.
The Georgia Championship and the Georgia Cup are the top two domestic competitions in the country. The Georgia Championship, known as the Didi 10 or Big 10 is the top tier of club rugby and is in a league format. The Georgia cup is a knockout competition.
Georgia is a colourful adventure, with its rich Caucasus culture and breathtaking landscapes. It’s four UNESCO World Heritage Sites, make it the perfect place for anyone looking to discover lesser known history and nature on an incredible scale. It’s a real undiscovered European rugby destination.
Rugby in Romania has a history of over 100 years. The SuperLiga is Romania’s top level professional men’s rugby competition. The league is contested by the best seven teams in the country. In total there are 124 clubs registered with the Romanian Rugby Federation.
When you’re not training or playing rugby, Romania has a number of popular skiing resorts along the Valea Prahovei. The well preserved medieval Transylvanian cities and towns are extremely interesting. Make sure you visit Bran Castle, the home of Dracula. Bucharest, the capital is a vibrant up and coming tourist destination. It would be an incredible place to play rugby in Europe.
The Belgian Elite League is the top flight competition which has eight teams. Rugby in Belgium is split into four districts, Brabant, Hainaut, Liege and Flanders. Within these regions, there are also several leagues.
Belgium’s medieval towns are quite possibly its biggest draw. From bar’s serving some of the world’s best beer to premium UNESCO sites. Alongside the beer, the food in Belgium is to die for. Prepare to add a couple of inches to your waistline as you consume copious amounts of waffles, twice-fried frites and the world’s most exquisite chocolate. Luckily you’ll have your rugby to keep you busy and hopefully keep off the pounds.
There are three main leagues in Portugeues rugby. The Campeonato Portugues de Rugby is the top division, the league consists of 12 teams. The second tier competition called the Campeonato Nacional de Rugby I Divisao has 10 teams. Thirdly, the Campeonato Nacional de Rugby II Divisao is split into two groups, north and south with eight clubs in each.
Portugal has so much to offer, from golden beaches to mesmerising cities. Over 800km of coastline offers plentiful places to soak up the sun or go for a surf. Frolic at one of the number of festivals packed into a Portuguese year. Drink and dance the night away at Lisbon’s Festa de Santo Antônio or Porto’s Festa de São João
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Do you want to play rugby in Europe? Do any of these countries sound like the perfect place to live? Get cracking, conduct some more research of your own and then get in touch. In the meantime check out this blog to help get you started!