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|Rugby union in Lithuania|
Lithuanian Rugby Championship
Rugby union in Lithuania is a minor but growing sport.
The Lithuanian Rugby Federation was founded in 1961 and joined the IRB in 1993 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.
Rugby is amateur in Lithuania. The only professional player to have come out of Lithuania is Karolis Navickas who in 2012 signed for Union Bordeaux Bègles.
Currently there are women's rugby teams in Klaipėda, Marijampolė and Vilnius. Another two are forming. 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:
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Sportin Lithuania is governed by the Physical Education and Sports Department following the country's independence from the Soviet Union in 1990. The Lithuanian government established the department to manage physical education in the schools and sports administration in the country. Over the next few years, Lithuanian sports organizations established membership in international governing bodies. Lithuania participated in the Winter Olympics in Albertville and has participated in every Winter and Summer Olympics since.
The Russia national rugby union team, nicknamed Medvedi, represents Russia in men's international rugby union international competitions. The team is administered by the Rugby Union of Russia (RUR). The RUR is considered the official successor union of the Soviet Union by World Rugby and the combined CIS team which played in the early 1990s. Since 1992, the team has played as Russia. Its first test match as Russia was against the Barbarians in Moscow in June 1992 and the country's first test against an official Test nation was against Belgium later that same year.
Rugby union in Russia is a moderately popular sport. Russia is ranked 20th worldwide by the World Rugby, having over three hundred clubs and close to 22,000 players nationally. Russian Rugby Championship is the top-level professional competition held in Russia. Krasnoyarsk, in the middle of Siberia, is traditionally the heartland of Russian rugby.
Rugby union in Georgia is a popular team sport. Rugby union is considered one of the most popular sports in Georgia.
The Lithuania national rugby union team represents Lithuania in men's international rugby union competitions. Nicknamed The Knights (Vytis), is considered one of the relatively stronger tier 3 teams in European rugby and currently compete in the second division of the Rugby Europe International Championships in the Rugby Europe Trophy, a competition which is just below the Rugby Europe Championship where the top 6 countries in Europe compete. They are yet to participate in any Rugby World Cup and play in black with a pattern involving the colours red, yellow and green.
Rugby union in Armenia is a growing sport. The national team is currently unranked in the world rankings, which records only the top ninety-six countries. The governing body for Armenia is the Rugby Federation of Armenia.
The USSR national rugby union team was a sporting side that represented the Soviet Union in rugby union until the early 1990s.
Rugby union in Azerbaijan is a growing sport. They are currently unranked in the International Rugby Board's world rankings, which ranks only the top ninety-five countries. The governing body for Azerbaijan is Azerbaycan Reqbi Federasiyasl.
Rugby union in Moldova is a popular sport. The governing body in Moldova is the Moldovan Rugby Federation.
Football is one of the top two most popular sports in Lithuania by the quantity of active sportsmen. However, with only 52,000 match spectators a year (2019) in all top league matches, it falls far behind country's most popular sport, basketball. Other variations of football like futsal, 5-a-side to 8-a-side football, beach soccer have become fairly popular as well.
Rugby union in Latvia is a minor but growing sport. During the pre-independence period, Latvia was not a centre for the game but nonetheless Latvia managed to qualify for the 1993 Rugby World Cup Sevens - which may be seen as the highest point it has yet reached.
Rugby union in Ukraine is a minor but growing sport, with a history dating back over six decades.
Rugby union in Kazakhstan is a fairly popular sport. As of May 2018, they are ranked 61st by World Rugby, and as of June 2009, they had 2335 registered players and twenty clubs.
Rugby union in Kyrgyzstan is a minor but growing sport.
Rugby union in Uzbekistan is a minor but growing sport.
Rugby union in the Soviet Union was a moderately popular sport. It was most popular in the Georgian SSR; parts of the Russian SFSR such as Moscow and certain regions in Siberia like Krasnoyarsk; and Alma-Ata, the capital of the Kazakh SSR. Rugby enjoyed a more limited popularity in the Ukrainian SSR, Minsk in the Byelorussian SSR and parts of the RSFSR such as Leningrad and areas in Southern Russia, including Krasnodar. Rugby gained a significant following due to the vast size of the Soviet Union, but was never a major sport; despite many attempts to develop the sport, which Soviet citizens came to nickname the "leather melon" due to the shape of the ball. Still, an early championship in 1960 gives an idea of the sheer scale of Soviet rugby: one hundred teams from over thirty cities took part.
Rugby union in Belarus is a minor sport. They are currently affiliated to FIRA-AER.
1990 Baltic League was Soviet and at the same time international football competition organized in 1990 with the ongoing dissolution of the Soviet Union. The league consisting of 18 clubs from the Lithuania SSR, Estonian SSR, the Latvian SSR and FC Progress Cherniakhovsk from Kaliningrad Oblast. The status of the tournament is not fully determined. The league also served as a preliminary tournament for the first post-Soviet Lithuanian football championship.
Karolis Navickas is a Lithuanian rugby union player currently playing for US Bressane in French Rugby Pro D2.
Metuisela Talebula is a Fijian rugby union footballer. He plays fullback, fly-half and wing for Bordeaux Bègles and Fiji.