Rugby: So this time, Cyprus is NOT a special case. What!?

Rugby.OnThisIsland.comWith all the talk of Cyprus being treated as a special case in Economic terms has got our stomachs in knots as we ponder about what’s to come of for our island and our families.

The one thing we know for sure though, is that sport is crucial, in the good times and in these tougher times.

So we should be rejoicing in the fact that with one game to go our island’s national rugby team is set to finish the European Nations Cup Division 2C in first position. Even more we should be celebrating that the team has the Test record for 18 successive international victories [surpassing New Zealand (1965-69), South Africa (1997-98) and Lithuania (2006-10)].

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But our friends (and I say ‘friends’ whole-heartedly as an ex-Rugby-man and long-time supporter of the Rugby movement in Cyprus) are not happy, not in the slightest. And this is why…

The winner of the pool should face the country which tops European Nations Cup Division 2D next month in the first match of the qualifying process for the World Cup in England.

Games against the winners of Divisions 2B, 2A and 1B would follow before a showdown with the third-placed side from Division 1A (which features Georgia, Romania, Russia, Spain, Portugal and Belgium) for a chance to go into the Repechage. That would pit the European side against a side from Asia or the Americas over two legs for a place in the Rugby World Cup.

However despite securing promotion to Division 2B for next year, Cyprus are unable to take their place in the qualifier against Norway or Luxembourg as they are not yet a member of the IRB. Cyprus are able to compete in European competitions as members of FIRA-AER.

To quote Russ Petty from PlanetRugby:

In November 2012, the IRB announced that Greece (Hellenic Federation of Rugby) would be granted full membership on a probationary basis with the comments that: “Despite not meeting all membership criteria owing to the certain unique circumstances in Greece, special dispensation was given for a 12-month probationary period. This was granted to allow the Union every possible opportunity to bolster domestic competition and development programmes.”

It is also the case that the UAE (United Arab Emirates Rugby Association) were fast-tracked to full membership from May 2012 to December 2012. Now the main reason for this was that the Arabian Gulf RFU has been disbanded and the UAE was described as: “A well-structured organisation with full-time administrators. It has 1,300 adult licensed players and a further 4,600 underage players. At domestic level, UAERF runs a seven-team annual domestic 15-a-side premiership and an eight-team conference competition.”

IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset’s comments when welcoming the UAE as a full member stated that it was a positive time in the game.

“These are very exciting times for our sport with unprecedented growth and interest around the world. Today’s announcement certainly underlines Rugby’s ability to reach out to new communities and countries in every region,” he said.

Now Cyprus cannot boast the same structure that the UAE have and indeed have only recently met the criteria required to become an association member by having four clubs.

However compare their playing results – UAE have lost 12 of 15 games, scoring just 17 tries and 184 points and conceding 888. They were beaten 3-106 by Japan in May 2012 and 3-94 by Belgium in December of last year. Greece have been beaten in all three meetings, with 144 points scored and 21 conceded.

Head Coach Paul Shanks and his side surely deserve the chance to try and qualify for the World Cup after their endeavours and it isn’t a stretch to say that the ‘unique circumstances’ that allowed Greece to obtain a probationary membership are going to be pretty similar to those currently hurting Cyprus.

Terms like ‘growing the global family’ and ‘taking tournaments to new territories’ feature heavily in IRB reports. That rugby is now played at the University in Nicosia, and TAG in Cyprus schools is down to the success of the Cyprus national team.

So it appears that our little island has once again been given the short stick, but that has not stopped the die-hard Rugby fans island-wide from starting up a petition online to get Cyprus the chance to try and qualify for the Rugby World Cup.

Sign the Petition, and help the Mouflons get one step closer