With the two giant heavyweights, Australia and New Zealand, facing off against each other tomorrow in the Rugby World Cup final, most people don’t even realise that Finland have a rugby team. They are 93rd in the world rankings out of a possible 102 nations.
Finland was the last of the major Nordic countries to take up rugby. Both Denmark and Sweden started playing in the 20th century and more recently Norway in the 1980’s. Finnish rugby started to grow during the 1990’s and there are now 577 players registered with the Suomen Rugbylitto.
Finland played their first ever rugby international in 1982 against Switzerland, which they lost. Finland went onto win their first international in 1991, defeating Norway 18 points to 3. Finland's attempt to qualify for the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France began in Round 1 of the European tournaments. They faced Bulgaria in a 2 match series, but lost both by a large margin seeing them knocked out of the tournament.
In 2000, Helsinki RFC made Finnish rugby history, when they beat a team from HMS Sheffield, a vessel in the British Royal Navy.
They also have a women’s 7’s team which has grown in the last 3 years considerably which has seen them rise up the divisions In 2015 the team went above the self-set expectations by finishing in 2nd place at the Division A tournament held in Kaunas.
Stephen Whittaker, the men’s national team manager was quoted in saying “A lot of expats play, but now a lot of Finns play. There are a lot of French, Australians, Kiwis, English and Irish. When I started playing there were probably 90% expats and 10% Finns; I’d say it’s probably the other way around now," showing that this is a growing sport in the country and may even give England a run for their money…
Finland may not be as spoilt for choice as other Northern and Southern hemisphere countries in regards to home-grown talent but they obviously face a challenge with the climate and landscape of the country. Their season is very short between June and September so they have to cram in as many games as possible to make it worthwhile before it can drop to temperatures of -30 degrees! The phrase ‘sisu’ describes the people of Finland andcan’t be translated directly into any other language but roughly translates as possessing relentless willpower to overcome any obstacle, to endure and to succeed so hopefully they can withstand these harsh conditions and continue to grow.
Our breaks operate to North Finland during the winter nights, so why not switch rugby balls for snowballs in a magical place where you can traverse the Arctic landscape via snowmobile, husky and reindeer! Take a look at our Northern Lights packages and book now. View our Arctic Spirit brochure here.
By23 September 2016