If you look at European rugby without including the Six Nations, you will find a rugby culture that is rapidly growing and has been for some time.
There is a lot of excitement in this area at the moment because a lot of milestones are being achieved and the competition between the nations involved at this level is fierce.
Proof of this is the fact that Germany just beat Romania in a high-scoring encounter, 41-38. This is an upset on par with Japan beating the Springboks.
Romania are one of only three nations to have won the Rugby Europe International Championship, with Georgia being the dominant force (nine titles) while Romania have won four and Portugal have claimed one.
This win puts Germany in contention of making their first ever World Cup appearance, as the games being played at the moment are World Cup qualifying matches for Japan 2019.
European rugby nations not involved in the Six Nations compete in the Rugby Europe International Championships, or Six Nations B. There are five levels in this competition, with each level being made up of five or six teams.
Each level has an annual champion and every level features one team being promoted and relegated at the end of the season. The top two levels of this competition are what matters because both are involved in the qualification of teams for the next World Cup. Level 1 is known as the Championship and level 2 the Trophy.
Germany have been on a roll ever since they managed to break the cycle of the team that is promoted from the Trophy pool being relegated straight back down the following year, when they beat Portugal last year in Hannover. It might be hard to believe, but this is hardly German rugby’s biggest achievement as they have beaten teams like France, Romania and Italy in the past.
Those victories were a long time ago as Germany has a rugby history dating back to 1850, and that win over Portugal was definitely their biggest achievement since rugby established itself as a professional sport. That is up until now, with their shock victory over Romania.
The triumph over Portugal was no close encounter either, with the Germans winning 50-27, but aside from saving them from relegation what it did was show that the gap between nations is closing and players from countries where the sport is still only at an amateur level have a chance to achieve big things.
Last year’s win over Portugal combined with today’s victory over Romania means that the only previous champions that Germany haven’t beaten are Georgia. The Germans will get their chance, however, as they face Georgia in their next game on February 19.
They will have to achieve another big upset though, as the Georgians are on a 25-match winning streak in the Championship.
Regardless, this shock win firmly cements Germany as a contender for this year’s title and perhaps the favourite to take the remaining World Cup qualifying spot as Europe 1 in Japan in 2019.
Teo Fudakowski, Pundit Arena