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Belgian Rugby

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Belgian Rugby

Postby Tobar » Wed, 28 Nov 2018, 17:27

I couldn't find any threads anywhere specifically about Belgian rugby so thought I'd make this one.

I was in Brussels this past week and met up with a French friend who used to play rugby. We talked about rugby for a bit and it got me wondering - why doesn't Belgian rugby have a greater French influence? There is a clear cultural difference between Belgians and French, that I could very clearly see. But since a great amount of Belgians speak French and there is such close proximity between the two countries I would have imagined that there would be a greater rugby influence.

I have very limited knowledge about Belgian culture and learned a lot more about the sporting world while I was there (albeit from a Parisian) but it seems like such a simple way to organize high quality matches for Belgian players, whether that means friendly matches or player exchanges. Perhaps they happen very often but I am simply unaware of them.

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Re: Belgian Rugby

Postby qwerty » Wed, 28 Nov 2018, 17:38

I always thought that since rugby's French homeland is in the south, Belgium wouldn't really have this influence.

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Re: Belgian Rugby

Postby Tobar » Wed, 28 Nov 2018, 17:54

Yeah I realized that while typing it but since I already added a bunch of qualifiers I left it out. There is still a strong enough rugby culture in the north to help. At the very least I figure that you can schedule matches with clubs in France who will surely have better infrastructure than Belgian clubs or you can hire coaches from France (which someone actually posted on a different thread has happened and made me post this).

I mean, if the US was bordering a Six Nations country then I would imagine that we would have plenty of matches for clubs to play in a high performance environment. Uruguay has certainly benefitted from its proximity to Argentina.

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Re: Belgian Rugby

Postby vino_93 » Wed, 28 Nov 2018, 21:44

Clearly, rugby is not strong enough close to belgian border to have a real influence in belgium.
Rugby had a long time to conquer northern France, so you could imagine belgium wasn't a priority.

But I guess belgian rugby benefited from France influence, maybe not directly, but you can for exemple watch games on French TV, some players & coaches crossed the borders, ...

And I don't think there are many differences between Walloons and northern Frenchs... :p

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Re: Belgian Rugby

Postby TheStroBro » Thu, 29 Nov 2018, 02:37

Jeremy Lenaerts Played Belgian U19s and was in the ASM Academy before attending Central Washington. So they do produce some players at the youth level.

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Re: Belgian Rugby

Postby vino_93 » Thu, 29 Nov 2018, 07:18

There were a few others : Charles Reynaert in Racing, Jens Torfs in Racing then Perpignan, de Clercq to the Stade Français... But the best was Vincent Debaty, who chose to play for France (his brother is belgian international too).

A few youngs are in good academies now : Aimé Césaire Muhirwa in Leicester, brothers Hubert in Albi, Charles-Henry Berguet in Perpignan, Basile Poupaert in Valence, Isaac Montoisy in Aurillac...

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Re: Belgian Rugby

Postby louizar » Thu, 29 Nov 2018, 07:51

Charles Reynaert is playing very well in Roval Drome and is a key element of their team, sitting on top of their pool in Federal 1, I expect them to win and qualify for the pro D2 next year as they have a really strong squad and are unbeaten at the moment. Jens Torfs now plays for Stade montois in Pro D2. Those 2 are best examples of players formed in Belgium, making it to professional after a couple of brilliant years with the former Belgian 7's program. We have some good players in the youth teams and our national championship is getting stronger , but very few make it to professional level and try to make a living out of it since there is no professional structure in belgium (abeid Dendermonde that is slowly getting towards a semi pro structure with halve of the team made of foreigners). Furthermore, the players are not really helped by the federation and no formal structure is in place to nurture talent and make it grow to the senior national team. The management of the federation has been really bad, they are running out of money so they decided to cut the costs by supressing the U20 team and the women XV team, and giving very limited funding to the 7's boys program. At the moment, the federation is focusing on the mens XV team and the woman 7's program (aiming to qualify to the WWS and the Olympic games ) and there is very little left for promoting the youth teams.

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Re: Belgian Rugby

Postby louizar » Thu, 29 Nov 2018, 07:54

TheStroBro wrote:Jeremy Lenaerts Played Belgian U19s and was in the ASM Academy before attending Central Washington. So they do produce some players at the youth level.


I think Jeremy lenaerts went to the center of formation of TOULON and Narbonne if I am not mistaken. He never played in the senior domestic league. It would be interesting to see him training with the national squad to see what he could bring to the squad.

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Re: Belgian Rugby

Postby Figaro » Thu, 29 Nov 2018, 10:05

vino_93 wrote:Clearly, rugby is not strong enough close to belgian border to have a real influence in belgium.
Rugby had a long time to conquer northern France, so you could imagine belgium wasn't a priority.

But I guess belgian rugby benefited from France influence, maybe not directly, but you can for exemple watch games on French TV, some players & coaches crossed the borders, ...

And I don't think there are many differences between Walloons and northern Frenchs... :p


I don't think geographical proximity matters that much. The strongest Rugby area in Italy is the North-East, so the opposite side to the border with France. Georgia is the strongest T2 side in Europe yet are nowhere near other Rugby playing nations (and the presence of Georgia in turn doesn't seem to have had much effect on nearby Armenia or Azerbaijan). Being next to South Africa seems to have helped Namibia, and to an extent Zimbabwe, but not Botswana, Swaziland, Mozambique, etc. - so success of Rugby in that part of the world seems more about whether there were significant white communities of European descent (i.e. cultural and historical reasons), not geographical proximity to SA. Similarly, in the Pacific, New Caledonia has little Rugby tradition but is closer to New Zealand than Fiji or Samoa are. What are the occasions when you can really point to geography as a contributing factor in a nation's success? Spain, arguably, but that's pretty much it.

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Re: Belgian Rugby

Postby vino_93 » Thu, 29 Nov 2018, 10:34

Clearly French relationship with Spain helped a bit I think. Clubs look to the other side of the border to host games or pick up some youths.
I don't know how much it helps spanish rugby, but at least a bit.

Those links don't exist with Belgium for the moment, because big clubs are too far. But I was only responding to Tobar who insisted on borders links.


Links through borders can be seen with Switzerland. Rugby is strong there, and exchanges with Switzerland majors. Servette playing in France is a good example. Genève could become a rugby stronghold for Switzerland in the future.
And we could see the opposite in ice hockey, with many young Frenchs joining clubs in Switzerland and starting their career there.

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Re: Belgian Rugby

Postby Tobar » Thu, 29 Nov 2018, 14:59

Well, I wouldn’t say I “insisted” on borders links but I was wondering why there haven’t been more partnerships between French and Belgian rugby.

It’s tough to give a perfect example for the US since we’re so much bigger than European countries but it would be akin to New York being the best football state in the country and New Jersey benefitting from that. The culture for football may be much stronger in New York than in New Jersey but at the very least New Jersey will benefit from being able to play teams there and can hire coaches. I use this example because I’m from NJ and currently live in NY.

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Re: Belgian Rugby

Postby 4N » Thu, 29 Nov 2018, 15:08

NJ is a stronger high school football state than NY btw, as I’m sure you’re aware. Too bad Rutgers rarely keeps any of those kids in-state.

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Re: Belgian Rugby

Postby Tobar » Thu, 29 Nov 2018, 17:05

Yes, I’m very fully aware and it’s not just the Catholic schools like Don Bosco that inflate that.

There was an article I read years ago and New Jersey is 5th or 6th in the country for D1 football players despite the fact that we have 0 major programs here (above is were Texas, California, Ohio and some others I can’t remember).

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Re: Belgian Rugby

Postby 4N » Thu, 29 Nov 2018, 17:23

Yeah there’s been a shift to the south in general but Ohio, NJ and Pennsylvania are the top northern football states. Ohio and NJ interestingly are way ahead of bigger states like Illinois or NY.

Anyway, back to Belgian rugby... :)

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Re: Belgian Rugby

Postby Tobar » Thu, 29 Nov 2018, 20:37

Before getting back to Belgian rugby.....

Ohio has a lot more going on than most people would think. It's the 10th densest state and yet the first thing I think of is farms. I think that's the same with NJ (which yes, we do have tons of farms)....lots of people in short distances but still space to build fields. Meanwhile, Illinois and NY are cold wastelands outside of their major cities.

Ohio also has the benefit of a few good football colleges.

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Re: Belgian Rugby

Postby sk 88 » Thu, 29 Nov 2018, 20:44

I think Thibaud Flament, who is playing regularly for Loughborough Students in National League 1, is Belgian.

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Re: Belgian Rugby

Postby TheStroBro » Thu, 29 Nov 2018, 21:14

4N wrote:NJ is a stronger high school football state than NY btw, as I’m sure you’re aware. Too bad Rutgers rarely keeps any of those kids in-state.


Football died in the city a horrible death sadly. NYC and most of the surrounding areas the sport is Basketball. The issue of course is field space.

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Re: Belgian Rugby

Postby Tobar » Fri, 30 Nov 2018, 14:03

Yup, field space is tough. Anyone who has their own field locks it up and keeps it just to their own school. This is also probably why NYC only has around 10 clubs for a population of 8 million.

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Re: Belgian Rugby

Postby amz » Fri, 30 Nov 2018, 14:12

Tobar wrote:Yup, field space is tough. Anyone who has their own field locks it up and keeps it just to their own school. This is also probably why NYC only has around 10 clubs for a population of 8 million.

pretty much same problem we have in Bucharest and make it outside is not that feasible since the public transportation infrastructure outside of Bucharest isn't great.

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Re: Belgian Rugby

Postby Tobar » Fri, 30 Nov 2018, 16:49

Lots of British expats here complain that we don't have our own facilities with showers and stuff. Hell, even sports teams with actual popularity here don't have that, this is New York City mate. Unless you want to go out into the middle of nowhere Brooklyn/Queens you're not going to have much space.

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Re: Belgian Rugby

Postby 4N » Fri, 30 Nov 2018, 17:05

TheStroBro wrote:
4N wrote:NJ is a stronger high school football state than NY btw, as I’m sure you’re aware. Too bad Rutgers rarely keeps any of those kids in-state.


Football died in the city a horrible death sadly. NYC and most of the surrounding areas the sport is Basketball. The issue of course is field space.


I thought bball was always the sport in NYC and football was finally making some inroads? Erasmus Hall for example: https://nypost.com/2017/12/23/erasmus-h ... est-level/

In other cities there are great urban programs. Glenville High in Cleveland (top 10 for NFL players produced), Cass Tech in Detroit, a bunch of Miami schools. All public schools btw. There have always been catholic powers in cities eg St Ignatius in Cleveland or Brother Rice in Chicago.

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Re: Belgian Rugby

Postby Coloradoan » Fri, 30 Nov 2018, 17:17

4N wrote:
TheStroBro wrote:
4N wrote:NJ is a stronger high school football state than NY btw, as I’m sure you’re aware. Too bad Rutgers rarely keeps any of those kids in-state.


Football died in the city a horrible death sadly. NYC and most of the surrounding areas the sport is Basketball. The issue of course is field space.


I thought bball was always the sport in NYC and football was finally making some inroads? Erasmus Hall for example: https://nypost.com/2017/12/23/erasmus-h ... est-level/

In other cities there are great urban programs. Glenville High in Cleveland (top 10 for NFL players produced), Cass Tech in Detroit, a bunch of Miami schools. All public schools btw. There have always been catholic powers in cities eg St Ignatius in Cleveland or Brother Rice in Chicago.


In general, places with very high population density are going to have more of a struggle for field space. So somewhere like Detroit is going to have more field space than NYC. California can be a good example of this, too. San Francisco doesn't have great football in the city, but LA and Oakland do. The ideal is probably moderately high density: enough to have a lot of people nearby but not so much that field space is either non-existent or exorbitantly priced.

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Re: Belgian Rugby

Postby 4N » Fri, 30 Nov 2018, 17:27

St Ignatius in Cleveland doesn’t have space for a football stadium (Ohio City, you know the area) and have to play their home games 30 minutes away in the suburbs. Here are their NFL alumni: https://www.pro-football-reference.com/ ... d=93b93753

(Oliver Luck is Andrew Luck’s dad for anyone wondering)

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Re: Belgian Rugby

Postby Tobar » Fri, 30 Nov 2018, 17:42

Coincidentally, St. Ignatius is one of the best HS rugby teams in the country along with St. Ed's (Ohio), Xavier (NY) and Gonzaga (DC).

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Re: Belgian Rugby

Postby 4N » Fri, 30 Nov 2018, 17:46

That’s true. They didn’t have a team until about 10 years ago, I actually had some teammates from Ignatius in high school, before my school split off on its own. St Ed’s had one of the first varsity (school-supported) rugby programs in the country. We didn’t like them.

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