Rugby: Will rugby still be popular in Germany?

Rugby: Will rugby still be popular in Germany?
  • Germany has never participated in a rugby World Cup and now comes to the chance, but still at the World Cup in Japan in a year to be there.
  • The German selection benefits from the fact that the World Federation of Belgium, Romania and Spain downgraded. Their federations had used in the qualification allegedly unreported players.
  • For the starting position, the team would have to win a tournament in Marseille, on Sunday is the first game against Hong Kong (15:55 clock)

Sean Armstrong smiles mischievously. "It's strange that we still have the chance to take part in the World Cup after this year," he says. Never before has Germany participated in a World Rugby Championship and twelve months ago it seemed as if the next attempt failed. But now, due to curious developments, hope is suddenly back and Armstrong knows: "Such a chance does not come back so quickly."

November is the month of big test matches in World Rugby. For example, this weekend in Twickenham in front of 80,000 spectators England challenged the world champion from New Zealand and the visitors won 16:15. But in the shadow of the big games, this weekend in Marseille, the German rugby team is fighting for the last available spot for the World Cup next year in Japan. On Sunday, Germany will meet 15 in Hong Kong, Canada a week later, and Kenya at the end. Armstrong, 31, has recently helped shape the development in German rugby. In 2007, he came to Germany from Brisbane for a three-month trial tour and stayed in Heidelberg, also for love. For many years he played as captain of the German selection, now he says: "This tournament is the highlight, we absolutely want the maximum success."

The chance got the DRV selection only, because the world association Belgium, Romania and Spain downgraded. Their federations had used in the qualification allegedly unreported players. Germany was therefore allowed to play K.o. games against Samoa – but lost the first and second leg. Now, as the team now calls themselves, the Black Eagles have the opportunity to secure the last seat in the Marseille tournament, only the overall winner will be in Japan in the fall of 2019, where they will play in the group matches to the All Blacks, the world champion from New Zealand. In rugby this is the reference point for enthusiasm and play art worldwide, whereas Germany is a developing country. Armstrong is right, a clash of these two teams would be curious – especially after the turbulence in Germany in the past twelve months.

Last autumn, German rugby produced negative headlines. The best players, including Armstrong and the new captain Michael Poppmeier, striked at that time games of the national team, because they reproached the association leadership amateurity. The occasion was the rift between major sponsor Hans-Peter Wild and the association's management. The billionaire from Heidelberg has invested around 20 million euros in rugby promotion over the past 15 years; most of his national team players have been hired at his Wild Rugby Academy (WAR). But at the end of November, Wild wants to close the WAR, and the 77-year-old actually planned to retire. The commitment to more rugby enthusiasm and more professionalism in the top of the association he felt as a lonely fight.

But now, after the resignation of the old Bureau and the sudden opportunity to qualify for the World Cup, the entrepreneur supports the national team again. Half of the 600 000 euros that cost the ten-week preparation and tournament in Marseille, takes over Wild, whose family became rich with a soft drink company. Since Tuesday, the DRV-entourage is staying in Aix-en-Provence.

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