Hungary rugby gains strength

BUDAPEST - In Hungary, football is king, but its rugby union is now confident of threatening its all-powerful throne.

BUDAPEST - In Hungary, football is king, but its rugby union is now confident of threatening its all-powerful throne.

While Hungary has failed to qualify for the football World Cup over the past two decades, despite the glory days of the fifties, rugby is enjoying growing popularity.

As the national 15 faced Austria recently in Esztergom, a small town 45km north of Budapest, and one of the country's rugby strongholds, the stands were filled to capacity.

The match finished in a 25-13 victory for the Hungarians. But the win came as no surprise to Mezes.

Ranked 64th in the world, Hungary is nowhere near competing with top European teams like Ireland, England or France.

But the sport is gaining momentum. Now the national rugby union has elected a new, media-savvy board that is keen on pushing the sport into the collective mind of Hungarians.

A university training course to form rugby coaches began in September with a first batch of 70 students, the Hungarian Rugby Union boasts 18 clubs and the number of registered players has passed 2100.

Money is of course an issue, but rugby, now played in over seventy schools and a number of universities, seems to have a bright future in Hungary. - Sapa

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