Rugby union in Lithuania
|Rugby union in Lithuania|
Lithuania playing Israel
|Registered players||1,650 |
Lithuanian Rugby Championship
The Lithuanian Rugby Federation was founded in 1961 and joined the IRB in 1992 after Lithuanian had regained its independence. Although the union was formed in the 1960s, it was not considered a full-fledged national union until after the breakup of the USSR.
Rugby union arrived in Lithuania in the 1960s. The first domestic game was played in 1961. Lithuania was never a stronghold of rugby in the USSR. The game was mainly played in Russia and Georgia. In 1949 rugby union was forbidden in the USSR during the "fight against the cosmopolitanism". The competitions were resumed in 1957, and the Soviet Championship in 1966. In 1975 the Soviet national team played their first match.
Lithuania had its own national rugby team in the USSR, but it was not treated as an international side.
Rugby is spread across the country with Šiauliai as the sport's stronghold. There are rugby clubs in all major Lithuanian cities. Some smaller towns only have junior teams. The climate in the country hinders the development of the sport, because the ground is frozen for four months of the year. Snow rugby is played in winter.
The game has experienced some growth in the independence period particularly following the record-breaking performances by the Lithuania national rugby union team in the European Nations Cup. There is some rivalry with neighbours Latvia who were the better side in the 1990s. However, in recent years Lithuania has dominated the fixtures.
Currently there are rugby women's rugby teams in Klaipėda, Marijampolė and Vilnius. Another two are in the building. Rugby sevens is the dominant variant. Although Lithuania's women are yet to play test match rugby, they have been playing international sevens rugby since 2005. (Current playing record).
The main national competition is the Lithuanian Rugby Championship, currently disputed by 7 teams in the I Group. They are:
- Vairas-Supoja Šiauliai
- Baltrex Šiauliai
- RK Šiauliai
- Azuolas Kaunas
- Tauras-VRA Vilnius
- Kursiai Klaipedia
- Stats-Kekava (from Riga, Latvia)
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