Great rugby rivalries

Great teams will always bring out the best in each other, and sometimes the worst!  When they do clash fans become as much rivals as the actual teams.  These are some great age old rugby rivals who never cease to excel and entertain.

British & Irish Lions Vs Southern Hemisphere

Photo – Wikipedia

The Lions are a team selected from the best in the United Kingdom and Ireland, who tour every four years, against Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The most recent series, the 2017 series against New Zealand, was drawn 1-1 (with one match drawn).

The Allstar Lions team Vs the rest is the pinnacle of Northern Hemisphere V Southern Hemisphere rugby, the tournament has been in existence since 1888 and being selected is a great honour for players on both sides.  Competition is fierce and often brutal (especially against the All Blacks) as the Lions tour seem to bring out a different dynamic to World Cups.

The 2021 tour will be Lions V South Africa.

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Munster V Leinster

During the early 2000’s Munster were the most popular rugby club in Europe.  And they were the first Irish rugby club to really experience success in Europe, winning the Champions Cup twice in 2006 and 2008 and also loosing two finals.  They have also won the lesser Pro 14, 3 times and were runners up 4 times over the years.

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Munster’s success really kicked Leinster in to gear becoming the powerhouse that they are in European rugby today.  Leinster started on a massive winning streak in 2007. The have won the Champions Cup 4 times, in 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2018.  Their record in the PRO 14 is even stronger, with a record 6 wines between 2001 and 2019 and have been runners up 5 times.

The county rivalry of Limerick and Cork vs Dublin was one of the reasons this clash always sold out stadiums.  Also through Irish rugby history the majority of the Irish national team’s forwards were from Munster, while the majority of the backs were from Leinster.  While this has changed in recent years, the meeting of the 2 super successful and biggest Irish teams is always a tense battle to behold.

Glasgow Warriors Vs Edinburgh 

Edinburgh and Glasgow are separated by only 45 miles, and this is one classic case of 2 big cities where the rivalry permeates every aspect of life from business and culture to sport, on the football side we have Celtic V Rangers and in rugby it’s a rivalry that’s been played out since the 1872 Cup.  The fixture is the oldest inter-district rugby match in the world.

Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh Rugby use their Pro14 league matches (which are are usually double-headers) against one another to decide the Cup winners. The highest aggregate score in the home and away ties decides the 1872 Champions.

Highlanders vs Crusaders

When it comes to Super Rugby it doesn’t get any better than a Highlanders V Crusaders clash, these two teams have one of the most even head-to-head records in Kiwi derby history.

The Highlanders represent the Southern side of the South Island, the Crusaders represent the North of the island.  Both house Otago University in Dunedin, the oldest university in the Southern hemisphere, and Canterbury University in Christchurch, the second oldest university in New Zealand. This rivalry can be compared to Oxford to Cambridge in many ways and infuses the great Canterbury rivalry.

A history of fierce competition and skullduggery always precedes this clash of Super Rugby greats.

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South Africa v New Zealand

Since the teams first met in 1921, dirty tricks, biased refereeing and on pitch fist fights have ensued.  The friction was famously enflamed in 1981, when South Africa’s government denied the Kiwis the right to play Maori players on their soil which resulted in fierce anti-apartheid protests, this kept the on pitch battle raging too.

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While most of that has been washed out, and politics have settled a bit, these two teams are still massive rivals and any clash usually brings out the best on both teams.  The two teams are consistently ranked 1 & 2 in World Rugby rankings, and while the win ratio is in the All Blacks favour, the men in green have beaten the All Blacks more than any other team in rugby union.  This is one rivalry that will keep going for some time.

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Ireland V England

The Irish and English have a long history, in fact the English have a lot of tarnished history with all Six Nations teams but it’s the Irish one that’s closest to the bone and this makes for some great battles on pitch!

Ireland have denied England many Six Nations Grand Slams, but the most memorable victory for the boys in green was the 43-13 demolition they served up to the English in 2007 at Croke Park, the national Gaelic games stadium located in Dublin.  Croke Park is steeped in Irish history and was the scene of some historic and shocking events (Bloody Sunday) when Ireland was under English rule.  This made the Irish victory very bitter sweet.

England drew last blood with a 57-15 in their World Cup warm-up match against Ireland.

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Leicester Vs Bath

Until the reign of Saracens, the two university towns of Bath and Leicester dominated English club rugby.  The century old rivalry is still fierce and every clash can promise a few things : Both teams will do anything for a win, boisterous fans, a packed stadium, fisty cuffs and a plethora or yellow and red cards!

Things have calmed down in recent years though and instead of on pitch fighting, they just try to steal each others players!

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