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For the 2021-2022 rugby season, Rugby Europe has created the Rugby Europe Super Cup, an annual tournament for emerging European rugby nations.

Two of those nations are Spain and Portugal, both of which have teams that advance to the semi-finals.

The Lusitanos XV represent Lisbon, which is the center of rugby in Portugal, with the majority of top clubs hailing from the City of Seven Hills.

The squad is older than you might think, as the Lusitanians were founded in 2013 and played their first professional matches in the 2013-14 Challenge Cup, against players like Stade Français and London Irish.

Despite losing all six matches by a total of 68 to 325, the team were relaunched for the Super Cup.

Unlike the Lusitanos, the Iberians of Castilla y Leon were founded in 2021 and are based in Valladolid, Spain, a hotspot for rugby.

The club is supported by three foster clubs: Valladolid RAC, El Salvador Rugby and Aparejadores Rugby. And they are supported by the Spanish Rugby Federation.

Rugby Europe’s initiative has seen professionalism enter many level two and development one countries with the aim of bringing the game closer together and delivering more quality matches.

More teams from countries such as Romania and Germany are encouraged in the future to develop the game further, with the Rugby Europe Super Cup striving to reach 16 teams and be linked to the Challenge Cup by the promotion bias.

(Photo by Odd Andersen / AFP via Getty Images)

Professional growth in the Iberian region does not stop there. In 2021, Diables Barcelona, ​​a new franchise based in Catalonia, played a game against the Cheetahs (loss 99-15) and a game against the Kenya national team (loss 59-6).

The Devils will take part in a new European league which kicks off in October 2022. It looks like Spain’s capital Madrid is also linked with having an undisclosed franchise in the new competition.

The competition’s main funders claim that some of the teams will be from South Africa.

It’s quite possible that the Cheetahs have found a new home after being plunged into darkness for the second time by the new United Rugby Championship.

Perhaps the Griquas and Pumas, originally from the Currie Cup, could also be included.

It is not known at this stage if the Lusitanians and Iberians will join the Devils Barcelona and Madrid in this new league.

The new private competition is separate from that of the Spanish Rugby Federation, which creates a wave of doubt as the wishes of private owners may differ from those of the administrative body.

Whoever is involved in the competition seems to be shaping up to be a United Rugby Championship B.

With Valladolid, Barcelona and Lisbon having new pro clubs and Madrid to unveil, it’s worth asking, why bother to include South Africa?

It would make more sense for a new league to stay local, just as the MLR and SLAR competitions did.

South African teams participating in a new European league have their advantages. The Cheetahs would help other teams improve dramatically by exposing themselves to a higher level of play.

However, these new Spanish teams might instead be looking to join and expand the Challenge Cup, exposing them to even more top-level competitions closer to home.

Better to play against Challenge Cup teams four or six times than against the Cheetahs potentially twice.

A new future for Spanish rugby

(Photo by Richard Heathcote – World Rugby via Getty Images)

Truth be told, when incorporating teams from other continents, the disadvantages outweigh the advantages. Traveling to South Africa costs more and takes longer than touring the Iberian Peninsula alone.

This is a financial burden for a proposed new league, which will most likely have limited funds and budgets to begin with.

Additionally, traveling to South Africa can prove difficult with the pandemic, as seen with the RCU, with several matches needing to be rescheduled.

The Cardiff Blues were left without 32 squad members, many of whom spent a month in quarantine. Cardiff Blues manager Dai Young has been cited as needing to be convinced to return to South Africa after the event.

To add fuel to the fire, South Africa’s teams appear unwilling to forgo home advantages and play home games in Europe so the RCU can continue as normal.

Imagine the financial and mental pressure on a new competition if Barcelona or Madrid were forced to quarantine their best players.

Another issue with the league may be the lack of quality players to choose from in Spain or Portugal.

The Devils squad consisted of 14 Barcelona players, the rest coming from abroad.

The new international league would most likely attract players from Argentina and the rest of South America, which would provide much needed exposure at a higher level.

Rugby is also an international sport. Realistically, South Africans may find themselves playing for teams such as happened in the United States with Major League Rugby.

A new future for Spanish rugby

As these players from Spain and Portugal play more matches alongside players of different nationalities, they will only progress to get better and better as well.

It remains to be seen whether a quota of foreign players like in England and Japan will be introduced.

It might seem like a stretch to launch a new league in Spain, a country below tier two status in October, but in reality it isn’t.

Spain and Portugal are regions that World Rugby supports. Spain will host the HSBC Sevens in Malaga and Seville in January and February.

It is a big boost to rugby for the region and an exhibition of the game in the mad country of basketball and football.

Portugal have also been very competitive in the European International Rugby Championships, tied with Romania for a World Cup place as Europe 2 by competition points, but separated by a difference of just two testing.

As October approaches, there will still be a lot to reveal about the competition.

Will the Lusitanians and the Iberians be included? Will the Devils be allowed to play in the Challenge Cup or the Super Cup? Will the competition benefit the national team?

These answers will be revealed in time.

Come in October, provided the pandemic doesn’t hamper any progress, it’s a promising sign of how rugby’s growth continues to spread outside traditional power plants.




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