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The eight biggest rivalries in world rugby ranked

Since William Webb Ellis picked up the ball at Rugby School and ran like Jonah Lomu for the opposition line in the latter half of 1823, so began the oval ball game.

And with it came some of the most intense rivalries the sporting world has seen. While football may have the upperhand in club rivalries, on the international scene it’s rugby that holds sway given the frequency they lock horns on the Test stage.

They’re the clashes that set the pulses racing more than any other with the prospect of a full-blooded encounter with the odd bout of fisticuffs thrown in for good measure.


8. Georgia vs. Russia

Glasnost is put on the back-burner and though not a high profile as some Test matches, there’s very little love lost in the 18 games these two have played since their inaugural clash in 1993.

Before the end of the Soviet Union many of the early clashes involved team-mates but it didn’t prevent frequent bouts of fisticuffs and to date Russia have just one draw and 17 defeats to their name against the Georgians.

Games attract crowds in excess of 50,000 and with Russia ploughing more money into developing rugby, don’t expect the rivalry to end any time soon.

Keep an eye on this one!


7.  Wales vs. Ireland 

An all-Celtic squabble that has its roots in a brawl in a Belfast theatre in 1914, when Wales’ notoriously combative forwards – the ‘Terrible Eight’ – were allegedly set upon by their Irish counterparts.

The game that followed was dubbed the roughest ever played, and so the tone was set for a rivalry which – while not quite brimming with the kind of political and cultural animosity that marks both nations’ meetings with England, regularly provides fireworks.

Their meeting in 2005, which saw Gavin Henson and Brian O’Driscoll go at each other like rabid dogs, while there is still resentment in Ireland over the treatment meted out to Brian O’Driscoll on the 2013 Lions Tour, which Warren Gatland pack his side with Welshmen. “Probably, out of all the teams in the Six Nations, the Welsh players dislike the Irish the most,” Gatland noted in 2009. He’s probably still right.

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