Men's Rugby Europe Championship Finals Day 2024 - All you need to know

The Men's Rugby Europe Championship finalists - Georgia and Portugal - met at last year's World Cup
©Photo by Pauline Ballet - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images

After two long months, the eight contestants of the 2024 Men’s Rugby Europe Championship will finally meet in a thrilling Finals Day on Sunday at the Stade Jean Bouin, Stade Français home ground.

And to give you a better understanding of what is to come and who’s going to play for what, Talking Rugby Union has called on the expertise of Francisco Isaac to preview the action and highlight some names to look out for.

Belgium vs Poland – The fight for survival

For Poland and Belgium, Sunday won’t be a fully enjoyable experience in Paris as they wrestle for a win to remain in the Men’s Rugby Europe Championship.

The Belgians “can” actually lose the game and still avoid relegation if the point deficit isn’t over 40, which is a good safety net to have.

The Diables Noirs registered one of their best-ever seasons in the REC, netting two wins in the pool stages, one of which was against Portugal, and seemed poised to play for  5th/6th place, but a semi-final loss against Germany in Waterloo led to a rematch of the 2023 final placement game.

As for Poland, they had a disappointing campaign compared to last season as they were unable to score any wins, but their focus is certainly on causing an upset on Sunday.

UK-based stars: Both teams will have a couple of England-based players to keep an eye on. Belgium have Cornish Pirates’ Jordan Gott, a fullback who brought something different to the Diables Noirs camp while in the Polish set-up, Hull RUFC’s Peter Hudson is one of the main stars in his national team, and leads in the ‘metres in contact’ ranking having also scored nine tries in National Two North this term. Brighton Blues RFC wing Stasio Maltby is the ‘metres made’ king for Poland (117). 

Netherlands vs Germany – The Orange to settle as the 5th power of the REC?

Can Germany undo the sequence of three straight defeats against the Netherlands? Or will the Oranje affirm its dominance and finish in fifth place? 

No matter how you look at it, we are going to be presented with a bone-crushing game, as both need a final victory to make a statement ahead of the 2027 Rugby World Cup qualification race.

Lyn Jones's team has evolved in the last couple of years, with the Netherlands able to compete against the likes of Spain and defeat old rivals, such as Germany and Poland, convincingly.

The forward pack is one of the most menacing in the competition, and they have in David Weersma a trustworthy goal-kicker. 

As for Germany and Mark Kuhlmann, the Schwarze Adler were brilliant in their home game against Georgia (the first time they managed to score more than 15 points vs the Lelos), showcasing glimpses of a side that can provoke an upset if they are given more time and investment.

Still, the favouritism is on the Dutch side, but Germany can dare to dream and finish as the victor if they can repeal the opposing 10-man lineout maul threat…

The UK-based stars: Germany have Bristol University utility back Henry Smeed, and British Army’s siblings Michael and Cameron McDonald. The latter has shone in his first Men’s REC season, pulling more than a few clean breaks and attacking plays to help his team.

As for the Netherlands, there’s still no word on whether Cardiff Met’s Vikas Meijer will be selected after his debut versus Poland. The fly-half did feature for the Archers in BUCS Super Rugby last week against Leeds Beckett.

Richmond’s Tommaso Fricano will certainly be in the mix, and his set-piece knowledge will be vital in Paris. 

Romania vs Spain – Who gets the bronze?

It is going to be the first clash between the Stejarii and Leones for new head coaches David Gérard and Pablo Bouza, and one that can determine more than just the final positions for both nations.

With the 2027 RWC cycle fast approaching, a third-place finish might mean avoiding the Lelos [Georgia] altogether when the 2025/2026 Men’s REC pools are sorted out - which could be vital for World Cup qualification. 

The Spanish rebuild has gone fairly well, as they clinched two deserving wins in the first two matches but then lost against Georgia and Portugal. Nonetheless, the fact that a revamped Leones side finished four points from defeating the Lobos is a promising sign for what comes next.

Romania’s campaign was a copy of Spain’s. They won two games but were defeated by Portugal (a record negative margin [49-24] while playing as the host team) as well as Georgia in the semi-finals, a repeat of last year.

The Stejarii are also under a rebuild as some of their most stellar names retired – Mihai Macovei for example – prompting Gérard to push for the likes of Alin Conache, Mihai Graure, Thomas Cretu, and such to become the new faces of the team. The front-five seem sturdy enough, but there's still a lack of cohesion between units. 

I would say Spain are narrow favourites, but it would be a mistake to disregard Romania at this point.

UK-based star: Mario Pichardie is the only one coming down from the UK, and that will be enough for Spain to be closer to a victory song. 

The Loughborough University lock was chosen as the new captain of the Leones and has simply been stunning since the first minute, clawing five turnovers at the breakdown, making 41 tackles (no missed attempts), and achieving 10 gain-line successful carries. He is becoming Spain’s leader and one that should make everyone proud. 

Georgia vs Portugal – a dance between two old rivals

In the last five years, Portugal and Georgia have shared a story of a thrilling and monumental rivalry, with the last meeting between the pair being that epic 18-18 draw in Toulouse at the 2023 Rugby World Cup. 

Richard Cockerill is the new Georgia ‘Master and Commander’ and after a slow start, they picked up the pace and trampled Netherlands, Spain, and Romania on the road to the Championship final. Black Lion and captain Merab Sharikadze has been one of the best players in the 2024 Men’s REC season, followed by Iliad Spanderashvili and Akaki Tabutsadze. 

Portugal started the season with a shocking loss after a monumental Belgian effort, but quickly turned things around and went as far as earning their first victory in 12 years on Romanian turf thanks to the inspirational leadership of Tomás Appleton, Manuel Cardoso Pinto, Hugo Camacho, and Hugo Aubry’s magical efforts.

The Lelos are tipped to add the 2024 silverware to their vast trophy cabinet, but the Lobos have what it takes to clinch a victory. They just need a re-run of that second half in the 2023 RWC…


2019 Rugby World Cup Points Table