Bulgaria v Finland in Helsinki (ENC 3C)
Both Bulgaria and Finland dropped out of World Cup 2011 contention after Israel headed the European Nations Cup 3C table at the half way stage. Bulgaria easily accounted for the Fins at home, 29-10, when they meet in the first round.
Finland has struggled in this division. They lost their home games narrowly and were not competitive in their away games, losing their last game, against Israel away, by 8-70. Israel went on to defeat Slovenia but then fall to Lithuania in their World Cup playoff matches.
Bulgaria's form has been up and down. They are situated in the middle of the division, losing to Israel narrowly at home, and then winning well against Luxembourg away. This was followed by a humiliating 18-40 loss to newcomers Greece away but just over the border, to then register a good win against Finland at home.
Finland will not be easy to defeat on their home ground. Bulgaria has proven it can win away from home and should be able to win this away match in Helsinki. On form they would be favourites to win.
24.05.2009 Bulgaria 29-10 in Pernik (WCQ Europe R1; ENC 3C)
30.10.2004 Bulgaria 50-3 in Sofia (WCQ Europe R1)
18.09.2004 Bulgaria 42-3 in Helsinki (WCQ Europe R1)
06.06.2003 Bulgaria 42-3 in Ibisa, Spain (ENC 3C, Pool C, semi-final)
Bulgaria has an historical advantage over the northerners but Finland has bridged the gap significantly in their last encounter.
GWC Rugby Rankings: Europe Table-Bulgaria 34th, Finland 37th
Prediction: Bulgaria by 9 points
Finnish squad to play Bulgaria. Image thanks to http://rugbyliitto.sporttisaitti.com/
15. Mikko Järvi (Tampere RUC)
14. Rami Aro (Enköping, SWE)
13. Antti Lammi (Jyväskylä RC)
12. Thomas Finell, Capt. (Helsinki Warriors RC)
11. Matthew Jordan (Helsinki Warriors RC)
10. Ilkka Tuomaala (Vaasa RC)
9. Topi Karjalainen (Lahti Sisu RC)
8. Petri Virrankoski (Tampere RUC)
7. Erik Pekkola (Helsinki RC)
6. Stephen Whittaker (Helsinki RC)
5. Stuart Reynish (Helsinki Warriors RC)
4. Ville Siiskonen (Helsinki RC)
3. Riku Ryynänen (Helsinki Warriors RC)
2. Semu Salmivalli (Tampere RUC)
1. Juha Rainvuori (Helsinki Warriors RC)
16. Micke Holmström (Helsinki RC)
17. Christian Skogholm (Göteborg, Sweden)
18. Mauno Konttila (Tampere RUC)
19. Andras Devenyi (Helsinki RC)
20. Valtteri Valtia (Helsinki Warriors RC)
21. Jim Harper (Jyväskylä RC)
22. Lars Margolis (Hamilton College Exiles RFC, USA)
Head Coach: Lee Bolger
Bulgaria team details not available as yet