After 24-years since their last appearance, a Los Leones Rugby World Cup berth was secured as they finish second in Rugby Europe Championship behind winners, Georgia.
In celebrations after their 33-28 win against Portugal in Madrid on Sunday, March 13, the Spanish men’s side could safely plan out the next 18-months to be fully prepared to take on their Pool B opponents in France. They will meet current World Champions South Africa, Ireland, Scotland, and an Asia/Pacific 1 qualifier (tbc).
— España Rugby (@ferugby) March 13, 2022
The last match Spain played in the 2022 Rugby Europe Championship, saw the Spanish team meet competition leaders Georgia. The Georgian side had an unassailable lead in the Championship – only suffering one drawn result over the last 12 months. Yet for Los Leones, they feel as if they have already won a major prize (even after their 49-15 loss).
More importantly for Spanish rugby hopes, Los Leonas Rugby World Cup desires have been fulfilled.
Los Leones Rugby World Cup appearance booked after 24-year hiatus
“It’s been a long journey and a very tough qualification process,” said Spain head coach Santiago Santos. “We lost our first three games and after that, we have won six in a row.
“The performance of the team was amazing and we are very excited to be going to the Rugby World Cup.”
Los Leones’ RWC 2023 will get underway on September 9, 2023 when they take on Ireland at Stade de Bordeaux. From now until that date, the Spanish players will have their domestic seasons to complete, and the lead-in Rugby Europe Championship before they concentrate on breaking their 24-year hiatus from the global pinnacle event.
Over the last 12 months, a big improvement from the side had resulted in six consecutive wins [prior to their loss against Georgia]. Results built on strong displays and well-constructed attack; as seen below.
— Rugby Europe (@rugby_europe) March 20, 2022
With a better for/against record, the previous six games saw Spain produce key wins over the Netherlands (43-0), a key away win over Russia (37-41), and the key victory over runners-up rivals Romania. In that match, they gained a 38-21 win on home soil that will be the highlight for fans to replay.
Now with the Los Leones Rugby World Cup appearance booked, the work begins on player conditioning and development, to ensure individuals arrive in France with the same confidence levels they have currently, to put their best foot forward when the ‘heat is really on’.
In other RWC news: Romania now set for qualifier tournament
As Rugby Europe holds two direct entries into the Rugby World Cup, third-placed Romania must now look toward the knockout repechage tournament, before that nation can hope to book their own berth in France.
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) March 19, 2022
The slim margin between Spain and Romania in the final standings was due to a single bonus point. They scored 17 fewer points over the course of the five matches that made up the 2022 season, yet they won more games in 2021. The combination of results made the criteria for direct entry into the World Cup, so the difference between this side and Los Leonas is slim.
Romania should hold their heads high, look at the positives found over the last 12 months, and direct their focus toward the World Rugby playoff tournament where they will face sides from Oceania, Asia, and the Americas.
The combined Rugby Europe seasons of 2021 and 2022 have been played with good spirits, and in a time when Covid-19 interruptions might have disrupted the plans of teams like Spain and Romania. But gratefully, the game of rugby was the winner, and the Tier 2 nations will be stronger for their efforts; alongside heavyweights Georgia, in their efforts to play in France in late 2023.
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