Friday, April 10, 2009

Rugby Test Match: Balkan Derby

Greece v Bulgaria in Alexandroupoli (WCQ Euro.R5; ENC 3C)

Venue: Foti Kosmos Stadium

Once rivals on the battlefield, these two nations meet in the more friendly atmosphere of an international rugby match for the first time this Saturday. They are contesting for a place in the next round of the 2011 Rugby World Cup qualifiers and bragging rights in this part of Europe.

Bulgarian Rugby Federation logo thanks to

Bulgaria has the longer rugby history. They played their first rugby test in 1963, against Romania, losing 0-70. Remember that at the time Romania were regularly defeating France and France were regularly winning the then 5 Nations International Championship. Bulgaria's club competition began in the late fifties. Unlike their northern neighbours Romania, Bulgaria has never been a force in European rugby. They did manage to defeat Yugoslavia 3 times in the 80's and 90's but has usually struggled near the bottom of the European table since.

With the new era of European competition under the FIRA-AER banner Bulgaria clawed its way out of the bottom ranks in mid-2003 to play in ENC 3B. Although losing heavily to Luxembourg, Lithuania and Austria, Bulgaria survived and played in the World Cup qualifying rounds for the first time in 2004-05. After being quickly eliminated Bulgaria settled down to two years in ENC 3B. They lost the fight to stay in ENC 3B and have found themselves in ENC 3C for the 2008-10 seasons.

Bulgaria started this season with a shock 8-11 loss to Israel at home but then bounced back to defeat Luxembourg away. Althought the venue is just across the border, the Bulgarians will need to be wary of an emerging nation in European rugby, the Greeks.

Greece is relatively new to international rugby. They played their first test against an Austrian XV in Vienna in 2005 and lost 3-52! In 2006 they entered the FIRA-AER competition for the first time playing Finland twice, home-away, and lost both games. In late 2006 they defeated Azerbaijan twice in 3D pool A, winning the right to play Slovakia in the 3D final in mid-2007. But before that the Greeks travelled to Cyprus to take on their close cousins who were themselves just emerging into international rugby. In fact, in Cyprus' first test match the Greeks received a very bloodied nose, losing 3-39.

Despite that set back, the Greeks went on to defeat Slovakia 20-17 in the final in May 2007 thus gaining promotion to ENC 3C for the 2008-10 seasons. So far they have defeated Finland 12-10 but lost 10-25 to a strong Israeli side late November 2008. A win against Bulgaria will get the Greek side back on track.

Greek National mens rugby squad for the game v Bulgaria. Image thanks to

GWC Rugby Rankings: Europe Table-Bulgaria 33rd, Greece 36th

Prediction: The Greeks have strengthened their side with three South Africans with Greek passports but I still fancy the more experienced Bulgarians to win. Bulgaria by 12 points.


Greece Squad
Tamaz Tsakalides (Macedones Evosmos)
Antonis Demertzis (Athens Spartans)
Michael Yorgo (Wits University RFC, South Africa)
Niko Christodoulakis (Wits University RFC, South Africa)
Marios Goumagias (Iraklis)
Filippos Sotiriadis (Athens Rugby)
Nikos Mavreas (Athens Rugby)
Nikos Hatzinikos (Rhodes
Kostas Karandreas (Athens Rugby)
Nathan Courcelle (Springbox Attica)
Vassilis Poulopoulos (Springbox Attica)
Vangelis Nastas (Athens Rugby)

Vasilis Katsakos (Athens Rugby)
Nikos Revelas (Wits University RFC, South Africa)
Jinok Lee (Springbox Attica)
Georgos Tsatsaronis (Athens Rugby)
Giorgos Kouroumichakis (Iraklis)
Christopher Fiotakis, Captain (Nice Cote d'Azur, France)
Alex Mendoros (Colne & Nelson, England)
Thodoris Fotiou (Thessaloniki Lions)
Beka Bekaouri (Macedones Evosmos)
Alexandros Gounaris (Springbox Attica)

Team list not available

For complete lists of all international rugby matches played by both Bulgaria and Greece, go to

1 comment:

  1. Greece absolutely destroyed Bulgaria in this game. 43:18. The two tries for Bulgaria do flatter them as they were rather dubious. But nobody can argue with the Strong Forward play from the Greeks and the lightning quick back of which all the tries came from. Next Stop Luxembourg for a true Rugby Challenge.