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 world governing body of rugby union).
The predecessor to Rugby Europe was the Fédération Internationale de Rugby Amateur (FIRA). FIRA was formed in 1934 to promote, develop, organise and administer the game of rugby union in Europe outside the authority of the International Rugby Football Board (as World Rugby was then called), and quickly came to spread outside the continent. FIRA agreed to come under the auspices of World Rugby in the 1990s, changed its name and returned to being a European body. In 2014 it changed its name from Fédération Internationale de Rugby Amateur – Association Européenne de Rugby (FIRA–AER) to Rugby Europe as part of a rebranding strategy.
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, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, France, and Italy — all of them routinely ranked in the Top 15 in the world. The tournament began in 1883, and is the oldest international rugby tournament. The tournament has been known as the Six Nations Championship since 2000, when Italy joined; it had previously been known as the Five Nations. There is no promotion or relegation, and since 2000, no country has entered or left the Six 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 or six teams, and is played on a round robbin format for a one-year cycle, with promotion and relegation between levels and the end of the season. As of 2018, the top division Rugby Europe Championship is contested by six countries - Romania, Georgia, Russia, Spain, Germany and Belgium. Of these countries, all but Germany and Belgium 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 Portugal, Ukraine, Czech Republic and the Netherlands.
This section needs to be updated.(January 2017)
The following table shows the professional rugby union competitions in various European countries.
|Pro14|| Ireland (4), Wales (4),
Scotland (2), Italy (2), South Africa (2)
|Rugby Pro D2||France||2||2000||16||243||1,025,910||4,222|
needs update]. Not all European member unions are members of World Rugby (WR). Rugby Europe's members are listed below, with the year each union joined World Rugby shown in brackets. World Rugby associates are shown in italics.[
There are 40 World Rugby members
There are 8 members of Rugby Europe, that are not affiliated with World Rugby:
There are 5 European nations that are not affiliated by World Rugby or Rugby Europe and are currently applying/reapplying for membership:
* Denotes associate membership date.
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, iconcluding virtually every country in Continental Europe. The ENC later expanded its horizons, taking in Morocco, Tunisia and other non-European countries. The ENC first division competition was won most often by France, but Romania won it five times, Italy once, in its last edition in 1995–1997, and the Soviet Union won it once. France and Italy no longer play in the ENC, as both countries now play in the Six Nations Champsionship.
In 1990s the 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.