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New format European XVs kicks-off

Rugby Europe’s European XVs championship kicks off this weekend with a new money saving format

The European Championship has a new beginning this weekend. Instead of all the teams gathering in one venue to play a mini-tournament, for the first time the top two seeds will play the semi-finals at home.

The first semi-final is on Saturday in Madrid where current European Champions, Spain, will host Russia (Estadio UCM central, 4pm CET), with the second semi-final – between Netherlands and Germany – in Amsterdam on 9th March.

The change of format is being driven by cost, with the top tier event learning from the second level European Trophy which abandoned its single-venue model last year after the high costs almost lead it its cancellation.

The last Championship took place in Belgium last year, where late season snows caused the Belgian RFU severe (and expensive) problems. The greater flexibility afforded by the new format should significantly reduce a repeat of that outcome.

The format also allows the hosts to promote the women’s game, and Spain are taking advantage o of the Saturday’s match with a “Lionesses Festival” for junior girls’ clubs. – a repeat of a similar even t before the Scotland game earlier this year.

Spain have made some changes from the team that played Scotland. Jose Antonio Barrio is using the math as a chance to look at some new players, including Inmaculada Blanco (U. Sevilla), Inma Bargues (Cisneros), Cristina Blanco and  Maria Ahis y Eva Aguirre (Olímpico), Carmen Rodera (Majadahonda), Carla Rodriguez (INEF – L´Hospitalet) and Mónica Castelo(CRAT) who will play instead of Olivia Fresneda, Anne Fernández de Corres, Amaia Erbina, Ingrid Algar and Jeanina Vinueza.

Nonetheless this remains a strong squad playing against a Russian team with limited 15s experience. The teams have only met twice before - in 1997 Spain won 17-12, and in 2007 they won again 54-3.

Spain from: Margarita Rodríguez Gómez (U. Sevilla); Laura Delgado (U. Sevilla); Inmaculada Blanco (U. Sevilla); Cristina Blanco (Olímpico); Patricia García Rodríguez (Olímpico); Sabina Hurtado Vaquerizo (Olímpico); Iera Echebarría Fernández (Olímpico); Maria Ahis (Olímpico); Eva Aguirre (Olímpico); Inmaculada Bargues (Cr Cisneros); Paula Requena (Cr Cisneros); Alba Vinuesa (Cr Cisneros); Maria Calvo (Cr Cisneros); Lide Erbina Araña (Cr Cisneros); Marta Estellés (Cr Majadahonda); María García Gala (Cr Majadahonda); Lucia Diaz (Cr Majadahonda); Carmen Rodera (Cr Majadahonda); Lourdes Alameda García-Moreno (Sanse Scrum Rc); Anna Puig (Ue Santboiana); María Losada Gifra (Inef – L´Hospitalet); Carla Rodriguez (Inef – L´Hospitalet); Mónica Castelo (Crat); Mayka Brust (Baiona Rc); Saioa Jaurena Atxa (Baiona Rc); Maitane Salinas Lizoain (Baiona Rc); Isabel Macias (Ac Bobigny 93);