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Spain & Portugal show RFU & FFR the way

Exciting news about informal discussions between the RFU and the FFR about future club competitions were slightly trumped by news from Madrid.

(With thanks to Rugby Femenino)

In the light of Saracens visit to Rennes in May we speculated on whether we might see official cross-border competitions in the future. Indications today suggest this could be happening.

Saracens are back in France this weekend playing a return “crunch” against Rennes**, after their highly successful game in May.

This has again prompted discussion about possible official cross-border competitions – and we seem to have progress on the issue.

The BBC’s Chris Jones has contacted the RFU about the subject and for the first time was not batted away with a short dismissal.

On the contrary although it is very early days, the RFU and the FFR have had “informal discussions” about a possible bi-lateral club competition, building on the interest generated by the World Cup.

With the England’s Tyrells Premier 15s and French Top 8 fixtures already in place there is clearly no rush as there are no obvious gaps in either country’s club calendar until next spring – but it is an exciting development.

All of this news was then trumped by revelation of announcement from Madrid a few weeks ago that was overlooked by almost everyone in the excitement about the World Cup.

The Spanish and Portuguese Unions have gone well beyond discussions, and the first women’s “Copa Iberica” will take place on 26th November between Spanish champions Olímpico and Portugal national champions Sporting, from Lisbon.

What is even more interesting is that Sporting became national champions at sevens – but are using this as a chance to play fifteens. As a result they will be playing warm-up fifteens games in Spain and France in September and October to get ready for this historic fixture.

Given their experience at the fifteens format alone, not to mention home advantage, it’s hard to see Olímpico failing to win the game, but that matters little compared to the relaunch of European cross-border competition – and maybe the overdue return of 15s to Portugal, whose only test match was over 20 years ago.

So Spain’s FER and Portugal’s FPR have shown the way. It’s now up to the RFU and FFR (and maybe other unions) to follow their example.

**Saracens gained revenge for their defeat in May with a 46-5 win against Rennes, in Dunkirk, on Saturday afternoon, the new Tyrells Premier squad dominating the second half after leading only 15-5 at half-time.