Sevens International players and referee Liat Geller preview this weekend's second leg of the European Championship - and questions the attitudes of some teams
I think a lot about the European Rugby 7s Championship. I think about it a lot, because I get the feeling that Rugby Europe doesn’t really think about it, and most of the leading teams in this continent don’t think about it, and I’m not quite sure why. You could argue that the teams that take part in the World Series don’t really need or have a desire to compete and win that title, but the question is why. Rugby is not the only sport where there is a yearly tournament where the teams take part in, and yet – the title of “European Champions” seems to mean nothing to those teams. Again, you have to wonder why?
This years’ first round actually boasted all the big teams; I obviously am only making educated guesses but I would assume that while GB and Spain were there as a prep for the European Games , Ireland and France used it as another opportunity to get game time for players that wouldn’t normally get it on the series (Ireland were only missing 2 starters out of their squad, France with their full team).
So one must wonder, what will this 2nd round look like? GB, who finished 2nd, will most certainly be without their biggest names as they have reached their goal last week. France seem very intent on getting this championship under their belt, and all their players are still very much in training. Ireland seem to have had their last session and there is no indication their regular lineup will show up in Hamburg.? Spain – Well, their preparation for Los Angeles 2028 has started. Belgium was a big question mark till this morning. Will they pull themselves together? Or will we see a team without their strong, veteran core? But their full squad is traveling to Hamburg, so they may very well be intent on having a strong finish. Maybe a world cup participation is their aim now?
Poland and Czechia will want to continue proving they are rising forces in Europe (and they are) and so I think we’ll see two strong squads.
Since at the time of this being written we don’t know the make up of the squads, we really have no idea what’s going on and we can only assume and take educated guesses.
So what do we have?
France who won the first round in a very convincing way over GB, have Belgium, Germany and Romania. This means whoever finishes 3rd have a big task in making sure their point difference leaves them in a QF position. Germany will most certainly bring their A game this weekend. They are playing at home, they had a very good 3 days of Rugby in the European Games and depending on what kind of Belgium will show up…. Romania, who are one of the youngest team on the series, have shown flashes of brilliance but are still lacking that experience and physicality needed for the Championship. Will not be easy for them to avoid relegation.
Assuming Spain come with their A side, I think the game between them and Czechia has the potential to be an immediate classic. Spain will want to take their revenge after the Czechs booted them out of Olympic qualification and Czechia will want to show that was no fluke. If GB sends a development squad – and I’m saying it carefully – I’m not sure at all who will hang on to that 1st position in their pool. Sweden had two games against Romania in the European Games and the last one was a very emphatic win. This should give them confidence entering a tournament where they will be desperate to finish in a ranking that will leave them up in the championship for another year.
Again, who do Ireland send? Are they sending their full squad or sending a development squad? The answer to that question will determine the rankings. Poland – being a proud team and the first non traditional 7s power to win the European Championship, will want to hold on to their top 4 ranking. Italy showed that even though they don’t invest much in their 7s program, they have the potential to be a very good 7s team. Portugal, when they get into their 7s groove, produce some excellent Rugby. So again – if Ireland aren’t impressive, we could see a very interesting pool!