It has been several years since it last took place. 2021 will see the Derby of the Low Countries be played.
Today Rugby Europe held a meeting about the singular circumstance that affects the last round of the Rugby Europe Championship 2020. The last of these fixtures would have been played this weekend, alongside the start of the Six Nations. Though the Belgian team was getting ready to travel to Romania to play, the Belgian authorities intervened.
Belgium only needed a losing bonus point to avoid finishing last in the Rugby Europe Championship. However, the Belgian government would not allow them to travel to Romania.
In the conclave that was held today, Rugby Europe decided this meant Belgium forfeited the match.
Derby of the Low Countries
While this is a huge set back for Rugby Belgium, it also means there will be another rugby chapter to this great rivalry between the Netherlands and Belgium. Every Derby of the Low Countries, in any sport, provides fireworks.
As rugby matches go, this will be a cracker as well.
The Belgian team does not lack in skill. Where they excel though is in sheer determination and good, fast, structured play up front. They have a great backline, but their clear strength is maintaining the structure up front, using that platform to kick and attack.
The winner of the Rugby Europe Trophy, the Netherlands, is the polar opposite. They excel in unstructured, fast open play. Their mobile forwards are able to set up attacking platforms anywhere on the pitch. The backline seems to find an opportunity to strike from almost all of them.
It has been years since the two teams have met. The last of their 43 meetings took place in 2016. There is no recent match to look at for reference. The two teams are entirely different from those that took the field in Brussels then.
Perhaps the best thing to look at to get any indication of how this match might go would be to look at the BeNeCup.
The BeNeCup pits the top 4 club sides of Belgium against those of the Netherlands. The matches between teams like DIOK Leiden and Haagsche RC and Dendermonde RC or Soignies RC are entertaining as well as interesting pieces for analysis. Even at club level, the styles are markedly different.
While far from consistently following the above styles in both countries, as a rule, the Dutch teams play fast and open, the Belgian teams a structured forward game. While the Dutch teams get the most spectacular wins, the last few winners have always been Belgian.
The structure and dogged determination that grinds out wins, gets the job done in the long run. The question is whether this will also be the case in a one-off play off match. There is every chance the Dutch will send in the cavalry straight away to run those incredible forwards ragged.
If Belgium holds out against that onslaught, there is a great opportunity for them to wear out the Dutch and break them later on in the match. If the Dutch manage to keep them on the run and rack up a few scores, then they will surely be able to take the match.
A date for the Derby of the Low Countries has not yet been set, but it has to be played before the 13th of June.
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