|Established||10 June 1935 (as FIRA) |
1999 (as FIRA–AER)
Rugby Europe is the administrative body for rugby union in Europe. It was formed in 1999 to promote, develop, organise, and administer the game of rugby in Europe under the authority of World Rugby (the sport's global governing body). However, it is not responsible for the organisation of the Six Nations Championship or the competitions run by European Professional Club Rugby (the European Rugby Champions Cup and Challenge Cup).
The predecessor to Rugby Europe was the Fédération Internationale de Rugby Amateur (FIRA), which was established in 1934 to administer rugby union in Europe outside the authority of the International Rugby Football Board (as World Rugby was then called), and came to spread outside the continent. FIRA agreed to come under the auspices of World Rugby in the 1990s, and appended 'Association Européenne de Rugby' to its name in a return to being a European body. In 2014 the organisation was renamed Rugby Europe as part of a re-branding.
After the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, Rugby Europe suspended Russia from international and European continental rugby union competition. In addition, the Rugby Union of Russia was suspended from Rugby Europe.
Rugby Europe has 47 member unions as of December 2021. Not all European member unions are members of World Rugby. Rugby Europe's members are listed below, with the year each union joined World Rugby shown in brackets.
Thirty-nine World Rugby members are part of Rugby Europe:
- Andorra (1991)
- Austria (1992)
- Belgium (1988)
- Bosnia and Herzegovina (1996)
- Bulgaria (1992)
- Croatia (1992)
- Cyprus (2014)
- Czech Republic (1988)
- Denmark (1988)
- England (1890)
- Finland (2001)
- France (1978)
- Georgia (1992)
- Germany (1988)
- Hungary (1991)
- Ireland (1886)
- Israel (1988)
- Italy (1987)
- Latvia (1991)
- Lithuania (1992)
- Luxembourg (1991)
- Malta (2000)
- Moldova (1994)
- Monaco (1996)
- Netherlands (1988)
- Norway (1993)
- Poland (1988)
- Portugal (1988)
- Romania (1987)
- Scotland (1886)
- Serbia (1988)
- Slovakia (2016)
- Slovenia (1996)
- Spain (1988)
- Sweden (1988)
- Switzerland (1988)
- Turkey (2020)
- Ukraine (1992)
- Wales (1886) 
Six members of Rugby Europe are not affiliated with World Rugby:
Nine European nations are not currently affiliated with Rugby Europe or World Rugby:
In 1931, the French Rugby Federation (FFR) was suspended from playing against the other IRFB nations, because the sport's authorities had suspected for many years that the (FFR) was allowing the abuse of the rules on amateurism. As a result, Fédération Internationale de Rugby Amateur (FIRA) was founded in 1934. It was designed to organise rugby union outside the authority of the International Rugby Football Board (as it was known at the time). The founder members were Italy, France, Spain, Belgium, Portugal, Catalonia, Romania, Holland and Germany. In 1941 the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco forcibly merged Catalonia's team into the Spanish rugby team. Nowadays the Catalan Federation is trying unsuccessfully to reverse this decision, claiming the historical rights as a founder member.
In 1965, FIRA inaugurated the FIRA Nation's Cup, and in 1974 the FIRA Championship, later renamed the European Nations Cup (ENC). The ENC provided international competition for European countries outside the Five Nations. The ENC was played in three divisions, comprising most countries in Continental Europe. The ENC later expanded its horizons, taking in Morocco and Tunisia. The ENC first division competition was won most often by France, but Romania won it five times, and Italy once, in its last edition, in 1995–1997. France and Italy no longer play in the ENC, as both countries now play in the Six Nations Championship.
In the 1990s, FIRA recognised the IRB as the governing body of rugby union worldwide and after negotiations with the IRB, it agreed to integrate itself within the organisation. In 1999, it changed its name to "FIRA – Association of European Rugby" (FIRA–AER), to promote and rule over rugby union in the European area and to run the junior world championship. FIRA-AER organised both the under-19 and under-21 world championships until IRB folded them into the competitions now known as the World Rugby Under 20 Championship and World Rugby Under 20 Trophy in 2008.
Rugby Europe (2014–present)
Rugby Europe international competitions
The highest level of rugby competition played among European countries is the Six Nations Championship, contested every year in February and March by the tier-1 European nations: England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales. The tournament is the oldest international rugby tournament in the world, having begun in 1883, and has been known as the Six Nations Championship since 2000, when Italy joined; it had previously been known as the Home Nations and the Five Nations. There is no promotion or relegation, and since 2000, no country has entered or left the Six Nations. Rugby Europe is not responsible for the organisation of the Six Nations Championship, which is run by the national unions of its participating nations.
The next level of international rugby, played by tier-2 and tier-3 European countries, is the Rugby Europe International Championships. It is made up of five levels or divisions: Championship, Trophy, Conference 1, Conference 2 and Development. Each division consists of five, six, or eight teams, and is played on a round robin format for a one-year cycle, with promotion and relegation between levels and the end of the season. As of 2023, the top division Rugby Europe Championship is contested by eight countries – Belgium, Georgia, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, and Spain. Of these countries, all but two (Belgium and Poland) have played in a Rugby World Cup and are routinely ranked in the Top 30 in the world. Other countries that have participated in past editions include the Czech Republic and Ukraine.
Other international competitions
Rugby Europe club competitions
The highest levels of European club competition played in Europe are the European Rugby Champions Cup and Challenge Cup. These tournaments are contested every year by clubs from the tier-1 European nations: England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales. Rugby Europe is not responsible for the organisation of these competitions, which is run by the European Professional Club Rugby.
Some European clubs from tier-2 and tier-3 European nations participated in the European Shield, which made up the third-tier club competition below the now defunct Heineken Cup and European Challenge Cup. This competition, which was organised solely by European Rugby Cup Ltd, ran from 2002 to 2005 and was primarily made up of tier-1 nations club teams that were knocked out in the first round of the European Challenge Cup, with the addition of one or two teams from tier-2 and tier-3 European nations (Spain, Portugal, and Romania) invited to make up the numbers.
From 2014 to 2019 clubs from tier-2 and tier-3 European countries competed in the European Rugby Continental Shield. This competition was a joint venture between Rugby Europe, European Professional Club Rugby, and the Federazione Italiana Rugby and it provided the winners of this tournament entry into the European Rugby Challenge Cup.
In 2021 Rugby Europe set up the Rugby Europe Super Cup which enabled clubs from tier-2 and tier-3 European countries to participate annually. Teams are divided into two conferences: western and eastern. Each team will play every conference rival home and away. The two best teams from each conference will advance to the semi-finals, where they will compete to play in the final. Currently there are eight clubs involved but this is expected to rise to sixteen by 2025.
World Rugby Rankings
This section needs to be updated.(January 2017)
The following table shows the professional rugby union competitions in various European countries.
|United Rugby Championship|| Ireland (4)
South Africa (4)
|Rugby Pro D2||France||2||2000||16||243|
- Average attendances vary significantly by country within the Pro14—Ireland (12,347), Wales (8,136), Scotland (4,570), and Italy (2,744).
- The English Premiership and French Top 14 both turned professional in 1996. Two Italian teams joined the Celtic League (since renamed Pro12) in 2010.
- England's second-level Championship became fully professional in 2009 after having been semi-professional.
- "Rugby Europe Bylaws (Edition 2020)" (PDF). Rugby Europe. 2020. pp. 6–7. Archived (PDF) from the original on 4 March 2021. Retrieved 4 March 2021.
- Gallan, Daniel (1 March 2022). "World Rugby joins other sports bodies by suspending Russia and Belarus". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 March 2022.
- "Rugby Europe Statement – Russia and Belarus Suspension". Rugby Europe. Retrieved 3 March 2022.
- "Rugby Europe Members". rugbyeurope.eu. Retrieved 24 December 2021.
- "Handbook" (PDF). World Rugby. 2014. pp. 16–10. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 February 2015. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
- "World Rugby Member Unions". World Rugby. Archived from the original on 17 February 2022. Retrieved 3 March 2022.
- ""Λουκέτο" στο ράγκμπι". Sport24 (in Greek). Archived from the original on 30 December 2014. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
- "World Rugby gives Cyprus warm welcome but Armenia and Greece the cold shoulder". ASOIF. 21 November 2014. Archived from the original on 1 March 2017. Retrieved 20 October 2016.
- "World Rugby confirms sporting sanctions for Russia and Belarus". Sport24 (in Greek). Retrieved 28 February 2022.
- "About us". Rugby Europe. Archived from the original on 20 January 2017. Retrieved 19 August 2017.
- FIRA-AER Becomes RUGBY EUROPE Archived 14 July 2014 at the Wayback Machine FIRA-AER website, published: 20 June 2014, accessed: 25 June 2014
- RE:Championship z 8 drużynami! (Championship with 8 teams) (in Polish). (3 December 2021) Polski Zwiazek Rugby (Polish Rugby Union). Retrieved 8 February 2022.
- "2021 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand postponed a year". The New Zealand Herald. 10 March 2021. Retrieved 10 March 2021.
- "The World Rugby Men's Ranking". World Rugby. 2 January 2023. Retrieved 2 January 2023.
- "The World Rugby Women's Ranking". World Rugby. 2 January 2023. Retrieved 2 January 2023.
- "Statistiques générales, saison 2011–2012" (in French). Ligue nationale de rugby. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 19 November 2012. Select "Affluences" (attendance) tab from the clickable banner. Attendance statistics are for the regular season only; they do not include the five playoff games.
- "Aviva Premiership Rugby 11/12 / Attendance". Premiership Rugby Limited. 29 May 2012. Archived from the original on 3 February 2013. Retrieved 30 May 2012.
- "Match Centre : RaboDirect PRO12 Fixtures & Results, 2011–2012". PRO12. Archived from the original on 25 January 2012. Retrieved 19 November 2012. The attendance for one match, Ulster–Leinster on 20 April 2012, was not reported by the league. BBC Sport reported the attendance for this match at 10,500, which was used in the calculations here.
- "Rugby Stats | Championship 09/10 |". Statbunker.com. Archived from the original on 27 February 2012. Retrieved 20 October 2011.