Thursday 23 September 2021 8:00 am

Rugby Europe Super Cup: New second-tier competition for clubs from Israel, Belgium and Russia kicks off effort to raise standard in emerging nations

It largely slipped under the radar here but across the continent last weekend the Rugby Europe Super Cup kicked off its inaugural season.

The competition for emerging rugby nations saw teams from the Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal, Spain and Russia clash in the opening round.

But just what is the Rugby Europe Super Cup, and why is it happening?

What is it?

The Super Cup is a brand new rugby competition run by Rugby Europe. Composed of eight teams from seven countries, the tournament is split into east and west conferences of four teams competing to reach the semi-finals and finals in April and May 2022. 

The eight founder clubs are from Georgia, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Belgium, Israel and two from Russia. There are plans to expand to other developing rugby countries, such as Romania and Germany, in the future.

The Super Cup combines newly founded teams such as Tel Aviv Heat, Israel’s first professional rugby club, and more established clubs like Siberian outfit Enisei-STM, who were founded in 1975, with a view to raising the standard in the seven nations involved.

Who are Rugby Europe?

Rugby Europe is the governing body for Tier Two rugby in Europe. In charge of the second division Six Nations, it has significant influence over how the game develops outside of the established European nations.

Russia and Georgia have strong domestic leagues, but they’re inward-looking and lack foreign talent. Rugby Europe aims to use the Super Cup to entice international talent away from Britain, Ireland, France and Italy, and into the developing nations.

Who’s involved?

The Super Cup Eastern Conference consists of Black Lion from Georgia, Tel Aviv Heat from Israel and Russia’s Enisei-STM and Lokomotiv Penza.

Tel Aviv boast former England Under-20 and Agen wing Gaby Ibitoye, who was lured to Israel by Demetri Catrakilis, his former Harlequins team-mate and now a coach at the new team.

The Super Cup Western Conference is made up of the Brussels Devils from Belgium, The Delta from the Netherlands, Lustianos XV from Portugal and the Castilla y Leon Iberians from Spain.

What happened in round one?

Last weekend saw three home wins. On Saturday, The Delta swept aside neighbours the Brussels Devils 34-13 before Lusitanos XV claimed southern European bragging rights with a 34-19 win over the Castilla y Leon Iberians in Lisbon.

Enisei-STM comfortably beat Lokomotiv Penza 22-6 in an all Russia opening encounter on Sunday. Due to travel restrictions, the fixture between Black Lion and Tel Aviv Heat is not taking place until 16 October.

This weekend sees the fixtures reversed, with the Delta travelling to Belgium, Lusitanos heading to Spain and Enisei-STM making the trek to Penza in central Russia.