Rugby union in Croatia
|Rugby union in Croatia|
|Governing body||Croatian Rugby Union|
|Registered players||2,142 (August 2011)|
|Clubs||21 (August 2011)|
Rugby union in pre-independence Croatia was a moderately popular sport, but due to its recent international successes, it is gaining more recognition.
Some people date the start of Croatian rugby to 17 January 1954 when the Mladost team from Zagreb was formed to become Croatia's first rugby union club. Some years later, a XV from London Welsh RFC toured Zagreb, which may be seen as a sign of how things were to improve.
Croatian sides competed in the Rugby Championship of Yugoslavia, which ran from 1957-1991. Croatia was something of a centre of rugby union in Yugoslavia before it gained its independence.
The breakup of Yugoslavia meant that rugby was a low priority. However, it ironically had something of a minor revival in Croatia, when occupying British troops started to play regular games against the locals in the 1990s. By that point there were a thousand registered players in the country, and fourteen clubs, and some fifty Croats playing in the France's top three divisions.
In the early 1990s, former Italian cap, Dr Giancarlo Tizanini was a major driving force in Austrian rugby. Before his death in 1994, he tried hard to establish a Central European equivalent of the Six Nations between Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia.
As of August 2011[update], more than half of the two thousand registered players are pre-teens or teenagers. In addition, there are currently twenty-three domestic clubs that compete against each other on various levels.
The national team has been competing since the early 1990s. As of April 2009, the national team is currently competing in the European Nations Cup and is attempting to qualify for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
Croatia have a host of players who are New Zealanders, Australians and South Africans of Croatian origin who play the game and have played internationally for these countries.
Frano Botica was a one time Croatian rugby coach and former All Black, whose grandparents were born in Korčula. Another former All Black who turned out for the Croatian side at the same time was Matthew Cooper. Dan Luger is an England representative whose father Darko Luger is from the island of Brac. Sean Fitzpatrick is another former All Black captain who has Croatian heritage. Also they have recently appointed a new coach named Milan Yelavich, he has a Croatian heritage but lives in New Zealand. He has coached the North Harbour Rugby team and has been associated with many other Rugby teams in New Zealand.
There are 22 men's teams and 1 women's team. Teams are located in the major cities.
Currently members of the Croatian Rugby Federation are the following teams (and cities in brackets)
- RK Knin (Knin)
- Pula (Pula)
- Invictus Dubrovnik (Dubrovnik)
- Kastelanska Rivijera (Kastel)
- Lokomotiva (Zagreb)
- Makarska Rivijera (Makarska)
- HARK (Hrvatski Akademski Ragbi Klub) Mladost (Zagreb)
- Nada (Split)
- Ploce (Ploce)
- Ragbi '59 (Split)
- Rijeka (Rijeka)
- Rudes (Zagreb)
- Sinj (Sinj)
- Sisak (Sisak)
- Šibenik (Šibenik)
- RK Zadar (Zadar)
- Zagreb (Zagreb)
- Zagreb Veteranski RK (Zagreb)
- Zrinski (Zagreb)
- Atletiko Filipjakov (Sv. Filip i Jakov)
- Novi Zagreb Rugby
The woman's club is called Viktorija Zagreb.
This competition involves club teams from Croatia, Slovenia and previously Bosnia-Herzegovina.
In 2004/05, 9 teams participated (Croatia - Nada, Zagreb,Mladost, Makaska Rivijera and Sisak - Slovenia - Ljubljana, Bezigrad and Emona - Bosnia - Celik) with Ljubljana finishing first.
In 2005/06, 5 teams entered with Croatia's Zagreb winning the competition
In 2006/07, 6 teams entered and Nada became competition winners for the first time.
Also in season 2007/08, there has been a Regional Rugby 15 League set up with teams from Croatia, Hungary, Slovenia, Bosnia-Hercegovina and Serbia.