Rugby union in Germany

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Rugby union in Germany
Germany vs Belgium rugby match.jpg
Germany playing Belgium
Country Germany
Governing body German Rugby Federation
National team Germany
First played 1850
Registered players 11,254
Clubs 110
National competitions
Club competitions

Rugby union in Germany is a minor but growing sport. The German Rugby Federation has, as of 2012, 110 member clubs and 11,254 members.

Governing body[edit]

The German Rugby Federation (German: Deutscher Rugby-Verband or DRV) is the governing body for rugby union in Germany. There are 12 regional unions (Landesverbände).

The DRV is a founding member of FIRA - Association of European Rugby (1934), and became affiliated to the International Rugby Board in 1999. Moreover, it is member of the German Olympic Sport Federation (Deutscher Olympischer Sportbund).


FC 1880 Frankfurt at the 1900 Olympic Games

Rugby union reached Germany through affluent British students who attended renowned private grammar schools in the German Confederation or studied in Heidelberg; others completed their military service in Hanover and played rugby in their spare time. This has influenced German rugby to this day: Heidelberg and Hanover are the centres of the sport in Germany.

The first German rugby team existed at Neuenheim College - now called Heidelberg College - in Heidelberg, around 1850, the game started to attract the attention of the students. Students under the guidance of the teacher Edward Hill Ullrich were the ones who then founded the rugby department of the Heidelberger Ruderklub von 1872/Heidelberger Flaggenklub' was established. (HRK 1872) in 1891, which today claims to be the oldest German rugby club.[1]

The oldest still existing rugby department within a club is that of DSV 78 Hannover, formed in 1878 by Ferdinand-Wilhelm Fricke.

The first form of competition on national scale was organised in 1900, on 4 November a South versus North game was held, won 11-3 by northern Germany, this annual game became a fixture until 1967, when it was replaced by a state championship. In 1999, the DRV returned to the old north-south game but its importance has not reached former levels.[2]

In 1909, a national club championship was first organised, the champions of the north, FV 1897 Hannover, met southern club FV 1893 Stuttgart and won 6-3 on 14 November 1909.[2]

The German Rugby Federation was set up in 1900, its first chairman being Ferdinand-Wilhelm Fricke. Germany's early strength in rugby union is evidenced in its winning silver in the 1900 Olympic Games and beating France in 1927 and 1938.

In 1927, the German national rugby union team was set up and played its first international on 17 April in Stade de Colombes in Paris. Germany lost 5-30 to France but did win the return match in Frankfurt, 17-16, on 15 May; in the third international between the two countries on 18 March 1928, a record 14,000 spectators attended the game, still the highest attendance number for an international rugby match in Germany.[3]

Long the preserve of the German middle classes, the most prominent German rugby fan/player was the controversial Albert Speer.[1] Indeed, German rugby peaked in the pre-World War II period, when in 1938, Germany beat France 3-0 for the second time.[1] However, war and the subsequent social upheaval largely reversed the pre-war successes in German rugby, it was for a period seen as a very English game, which worked against it; as a result, it lost its financial support and much of the popularity it had gained in the western and northern cities of Heidelberg, Hanover and Frankfurt.[1]

Like all other German sport federations, the DRV was absorbed in the all-powerful Nazi sports organisation, the Nationalsozialistischer Reichsbund für Leibesübungen, as part of "Department 2", which also served association football and cricket. Hermann Meister, chairman of the DRV, a firm believer in a united Europe and a friend of France, tried to live up to his ideals but rugby by and large offered no more resistance to the Nazis than any other sport.[3]

The sport was decimated by World War II as most of its players were killed. Germany, at its height of performance in 1939 and second only to France in continental Europe, lost virtually its whole national team during the war, a predicament from which it has never recovered.[3]

Of the centres of German rugby, only Heidelberg, future headquarters of the US forces in West Germany, was spared by the bombing raids and the sport of rugby carried low priority in the first post war years; in 1948, the German championship was restored and the golden area of the TSV Victoria Linden begun, the team winning the title six times in a row from 1951 to 1956, an achievement matched only recently by Heidelberger RK.[4] The first British team to tour Germany after the war was the Oxford Greyhounds in 1950; in the same year, the DRV was restored in West Germany. With the country now divided into East and West following the post-war occupation, East Germany became the first German team to resume playing international rugby when it toured Romania in 1951, it was followed by the West German team a year later, which played its first international against Belgium in 1952. However, neither side was able to achieve the same successes as the pre-war German team.[5]

Rugby showed that it was not immune to the Cold War split when Burt Weiss, an East German player, escaped to West Berlin using a snorkel,[6] the DRV continued to offer the East German DTSB to play a rugby friendly, but this was always declined by the East. After a combined team of Lok and Post Berlin happened to play West German side Berliner SC in a tournament in Olomouc in 1985, a ban on participation in international tournaments with West German clubs was issued by the DTSB.[7]

A Rugby-Bundesliga was formed in 1971 to replace the previously existing regional championships, the hoped for increase in interest however did not materialise and rugby remains a minor sport in Germany, almost exclusively played by amateurs.[4]

With German reunification, a number of clubs from former East Germany joined the German league system.

In 2000 the German Rugby Federation celebrated its centenary. Centenary celebrations included a banquet in the Heidelberg Castle and the hosting of the European leg of the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Heidelberg, in which the German team came close to upsetting Ireland, who had Gordon D'Arcy in their line-up. The tournament was won by the Welsh team, which featured Andy Marinos and Arwel Thomas.

The highlight of the Centenary season was the Centenary Match against the famous Barbarians, the Barbarians included a host of Welsh, English, Scottish, Irish and Australian internationals including Scott Hastings, Peter Stringer, Shaun Longstaff, Jeff Probyn, Frankie Sheahan, Russell Earnshaw, Shaun Connor, John Langford and Derwyn Jones and won 47-19 against a determined German team.

The German federation tendered to host the 2010 Women's Rugby World Cup but the event was awarded to England instead,[8] it did however hold the 2008 Hannover Sevens, the European Sevens championship.

An important part of rugby union outside the structures of the German federation is the Army Rugby Union of the British Army in Germany which holds its own "German" championship, the winner of this competition advances to play the UK Army rugby union champion. The British Army also supported development of the sport in the region by a British Army Germany rugby union team playing the national teams of Germany and its neighbouring countries.[9]

The German Rugby Federation suffered a major crisis in 2011, finding itself close to insolvency, being €200,000 in debt, the situation was brought on by the annual grant of the German federal ministry of the interior, BMI, not being paid in 2010 after the ministry voiced concerns that the DRV was not using the money for the desired purpose, to support the sport. A legal battle that the DRV chairman Claus-Peter Bach fought with the ministry did not bring the desired result but instead worsened the situation. Bach consequently announced he would not stand for another term in July 2011 and was replaced by Ralph Götz, the DRV was able to secure a private loan to survive and hopes to attract sponsors that had withdrawn under Bach as well as to reach a settlement with the BMI.[10][11]

In mid-July 2012 the Deutsche Rugby Tag (DRT), the annual general meeting of the DRV decided to approve a league reform proposed by German international Manuel Wilhelm, the new system will see the number of clubs in the Bundesliga increased from ten to 24, the league divided into four regional divisions of six clubs each and the finals series expanded from four to eight teams. One of the main aims of the reform was to reduce the number of kilometres travlled by individual teams and therefore reduce the travel expenses, the DRV also announced at the DRT 2012 that it was able to avoid insolvency and regain its annual grants from the German government on the condition that it sticks to a strict financial plan that would see the DRV dept free by 2018. Any violation of this plan would see the funding withdrawn and the association confronted with insolvency again.[12][13]

German rugby museum[edit]

The Deutsches Rugby-Sportmuseum in Heidelberg

The history of rugby in Germany is documented in the Deutsche Rugby-Sportmuseum, the German rugby sport museum, which is located at Heidelberg, it was opened 2 May 1997.[14]

National team[edit]

The Germany national rugby union team is currently (2016-17) competing in the Europe International Championships (Championship Division). They first played in 1927 and have yet to qualify for the Rugby World Cup.

With the partition of Germany following the Second World War, the East and West fielded separate teams, this arrangement ended with the reunification of Germany in 1990.

National League[edit]

The premier rugby competition in Germany is the Rugby-Bundesliga, which, in 2016, has been expanded from ten to 16 clubs.[12][13]


The German Rugby Federation has, as of 2014, 125 member clubs and 13,985 members.[15]

Rugby union has a small but dedicated following in several university cities.

German players occasionally break through into French or English clubs, such as Robert Mohr at La Rochelle or Sascha Fischer at Périgueux.

The league system[edit]

The top three tiers of the league system in 2011-13 look as follows:






Northern Division

6 clubs

Eastern Division

6 clubs

Western Division

6 clubs

Southern Division

6 clubs


2nd Rugby-Bundesliga

Northern Division

6 clubs

Eastern Division

6 clubs

Western Division

6 clubs

Southern Division

6 clubs


Regionalliga North

Regionalliga East

3rd Liga South/West




Regionalliga Bavaria 8 clubs




Rugby-Verbandsliga Bavaria 8 clubs

Rugby positions: German terms[edit]

In German, the English terminology for rugby positions is not commonly used, the German equivialent for the English terms are:

Number English German Translation
1 Loosehead Prop Linker Pfeiler Left-hand Stanchion
2 Hooker Hakler Hooker
3 Tighthead Prop Rechter Pfeiler Right-hand stanchion
4 Lock Zweite-Reihe-Stürmer Second Row Forward
5 Lock Zweite-Reihe-Stürmer Second Row Forward
6 Blindside Flanker Linker Flügelstürmer Left Wing-Forward
7 Openside Flanker Rechter Flügelstürmer Right Wing-Forward
8 Number 8 Nummer Acht Number 8
9 Scrum Half Gedrängehalb Scrum Half
10 Fly-half Verbindungshalb Connecting Half
11 Left Wing Kurzer Außendreiviertel Short Outside Three-quarters
12 Inside Centre Erster Innendreiviertel First Inside Three-quarters
13 Outside Centre Zweiter Innendreiviertel Second Inside Three-quarters
14 Right Wing Langer Außendreiviertel Long Outside Three-quarters
15 Fullback Schlussmann Final Man

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Bath, Richard (ed.) The Complete Book of Rugby (Seven Oaks Ltd, 1997 ISBN 1-86200-013-1) p67
  2. ^ a b Die Zeit vor den Länderspielen (in German) DRV website - History before the national team, accessed: 26 December 2008
  3. ^ a b c Rugby zwischen den beiden Weltkriegen (in German) DRV website - History between the wars, accessed: 26 December 2008
  4. ^ a b Wiederaufbau der Vereine und Landesverbände (in German) DRV website - Restoration, accessed: 26 December 2008
  5. ^ Der DRV in Europa und der Welt (in German) DRV website - The DRV in Europe and the World, accessed: 26 December 2008
  6. ^ 1983 German Rugby Player Escapes from East Berlin by Using Snorkel accessed: 26 December 2008
  7. ^ Post SV Berlin Rugby - Archiv (in German) Chronik 30 Jahre - History of Post SV Berlin Rugby, accessed: 11 April 2010
  8. ^ England to host women's World Cup publisher: BBC, published: 23 September 2008, accessed: 29 December 2008
  9. ^ British Army (Germany) Rugby History Army rugby union website, accessed: 29 December 2008
  10. ^ Neue Hoffnung im Überlebenskampf (in German) Offenbach-Post, published: 3 August 2011, accessed: 19 August 2011
  11. ^ DRV: Hoffnungen ruhen auf Götz und Zeiger (in German) Offenbach-Post, published: 18 July 2011, accessed: 19 August 2011
  12. ^ a b DRT 2012: Ligareform kommt / Vertrag mit DRV-Vermarkter wird überprüft (in German), published: 16 July 2012, accessed: 24 July 2012
  13. ^ a b DRT (in German) DRV website, published: 16 July 2012, accessed: 24 July 2012
  14. ^ Das Deutsche Rugby-Sportmuseum Heidelberg... (in German) DRV website, accessed: 2 March 2010
  15. ^ GERMANY IRB website, accessed: 25 July 2012

External links[edit]

  • DRV website (in German) German rugby federation website