Rugby Europe Championship Preview: Semi-Finals
The Rugby Europe men’s Championship has reached the knock-out stages and there are four big matches this weekend.
First up on Saturday lunchtime at 1.15pm local time (12.15pm UTC), Netherlands take on Belgium at the National Rugby Center in Amsterdam.
This is a rankings semi-final match with the winner progressing to the Ranking final on March 19 in the same city and the loser going through to the seventh place final on the same day.
These two sides are evenly matched as it is 28 versus 27 in the world rankings while Netherlands finished third in Pool A and Belgium fourth in Pool B.
Netherlands will have taken belief from their win in Germany two weeks ago and their head coach Lyn Jones said: “We were delighted to come away from Germany with a deserved victory.
“It sets us up with two home matches in Amsterdam which we are looking forward to.
“We must pick our performance up to a higher level this weekend if we wish to be successful against a motivated Belgian side. We are focused on our performance and being consistent in our execution - it's the only way to create a long-term future in the Championship competition.”
Belgium’s last outing saw them edged out 21-15 by Poland on February 18 and their head coach Mike Ford said: “After a disappointing result against Poland, we will be looking to be the best version of ourselves versus Netherlands this weekend.
“We had a poor start in Poland and it wasn’t until the last 15 minutes of the game that we played anything like we know we can. The challenge this weekend is to start really well and play more like the Belgium way against a good Netherlands side.”
At 5pm local time (5pm UTC) on Saturday the first Cup semi-final takes place when Portugal welcome Spain to the Estádio do Restelo in Lisbon.
The winners will progress to the Grand Final on March 19 in Badajoz, Spain, with the losers going into the third place match on the same day.
Portugal go into this match having won three from three to top Pool A while Spain finished as runners-up in Pool B.
The home side certainly have players in form and scored tries for fun in the opening rounds while they are 16th in the world and Spain 17th.
The second Cup semi-final kicks off the action on Sunday.
And this one is a match-up between two sides who will be at the World Cup later this year as Georgia host Romania in the Avchala Stadium in Tbilisi at 4pm local time (12pm UTC).
Georgia, the defending champions, recorded 15 points from a possible 15 to top Pool A while Romania were runners-up in Pool B.
The Georgians scored 156 points and conceded just 23 in the opening phase while Romania are building under new head coach Eugen Apjok.
It is 12 in the world versus 20th, so Georgia are favourites on home turf, but if Romania can get their pack moving forward who knows what might happen.
The rankings semi-final between Poland and Germany in the Narodowy Stadion Rugby in Gdynia rounds things off for the weekend at 8.10pm local time (7.10pm UTC) on Sunday.
Poland go into this one off the back of a famous win over Belgium last time out which earned them third spot in Pool B while Germany finished fourth in Pool A.