Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Test Rugby Preview: Cyprus v Bosnia Herzegovina 1

Bosnia Herzegovina Logo. Thanks to irb.com

It's unlikely that this rugby test, to be played this Saturday, will hardly raise an eyebrow of interest in any area of sporting news this week. So lets do it here.

The European Nations Cup is contested by the rugby nations of Europe outside the 6 Nations International Championship. Some incorrectly refer to it as 6 Nations 'B' or second division. There are three sections each with at least two divisions. Division 3D is right at the bottom of the table. In fact the teams in this division do not qualify for any 2011 Rugby World Cup qualifying matches. But despite that there is a lot to play for.

Played over two seasons on a home-away basis, the European Nations Cup (we'll say ENC from here) is the quage of strength in European rugby. The winner of 3D is automatically promoted to 3C in 2010. If the present system of qualification is used for 2015 Rugby World Cup then teams in 3C will qualify. So this match will go a long way to see which team will look most likely to qualify.

So lets look at these two rugby minnows. Bosnia Herzegovina has been on the international scene longer than Cyprus. Bosnia Herzegovina played its first international rugby test in 1992 soon after breaking away from the Yogoslavian Federation. They lost 3-47 to Croatia in Split. The disasterous war that followed put a halt to any organised rugby in the area for 4 years. On 21st September 1997 international rugby began again for Bosnia Herzegovina. Croatia again journeyed to the troubled land, this time Zenica, to win easily 62-3. No matter! The Bosnians were on their way again.

The following season Bosnia Herzegovina joined FIRA competitions for the first time. They joined Pool B and enjoyed their first international success, 22-16 against Monaco, but were generally outplayed by the likes of Croatia (again), Hungary, Austria and Slovenia. Then in 2000 they played in Rugby World Cup 2003 qualification matches. They started with a shock 13-12 win over Hungary. They also defeated their old enemy Yugoslavia 23-13 in Sarajevo but did not progress to the next stage.

In 2001-02 Bosnia Herzegovina played in FIRA Division B, Pool B winning against Luxembourg and Israel but losing to Lithuania and Hungary. 2002-03 saw the introduction of the present competition structure under the guidance of FIRA-AER. Starting off in Division 3B Bosnia lost all their games over the next two seasons and found themselves in Division 3C. The early promise was not being realised.

In 2004 Bosnia Herzegovina participated in a home-away series against Austria to see who would proceed to the first round of qualification for the 2007 Rugby World Cup finals in France. Bosnia Herzegovina lost both matches, Austria proceeding.

In 2004-05 Bosnia Herzegovina played a home-away series against Azerbaijan as the only teams in ENC 3C. Bosnia won on points aggregate and stayed in 3C but in early 2005 lost a 3B/3C knockout game against Hungary 8-56 and thus remained in 3C. For the next three seasons the Bosnians struggled at this level finally being relegated to 3D at the end of the 2007-08 season. So far they have shown that they are a cut above the other teams at this level, overwhelming Monaco 52-5 in October and then finally defeating a fierly Slovakia 46-32 in November. The Bosnians then creaked home 18-7 against a weakened Azerbaijan in late November.

Slovakia win a lineout. Photo thanks to http://rugbylife.blogger.ba/

So the scene is set for a right old clash against the other undefeated team in this competition, Cyprus. More on their opponents tomorrow.

Bosnia Herzegovina team to play in Cyprus 21.03.2009. Thanks to http://rugbylife.blogger.ba/

For a complete list of all international rugby test matches played by Bosnia Herzegovina go to http://www.rugbyinternational.net/

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