With club rugby back in full swing after the conclusion of the Rugby World Cup, what are five of club rugby’s biggest rivalries? Two Cents Rugby investigates.
Leinster v Munster – Ireland
It was surely the most highly attended game since the Rugby World Cup. With almost 50,000 fans in attendance at the weekend, the rivalry between Leinster and Munster is still in great health.
Both sides have such a rich history domestically and in Europe, this prominence means there’s always a lot of eyes on the match. However, prior to Munster‘s semi-final win over Leinster in May this year, the rivalry had gone a bit lopsided with Leinster having won nine out of the previous ten matches.
Munster’s victory and eventual United Rugby Championship title has made things a bit spicier, and the 21-16 result was another fitting chapter in the history between the sides. The return fixture at the end of the December will be much anticipated.
Blues v Crusaders – New Zealand
The rivalry between these sides dates back to before Super Rugby, when it was Auckland against Canterbury. Back in those days there was a genuine dislike between the teams, with one famous picture capturing the feeling, a boy holding an “I hate you Auckland” sign in the stands.
In the 2010s the rivalry lost steam as the Blues were poor, but with their resurgence under Leon MacDonald the games have become more meaningful again. 24,000 attended the regular season fixture between the two last season at Eden Park, certainly the biggest home crowd for the Blues in 2023.
With both teams having new coaches in 2024, the rivalry will enter a new chapter.
Gloucester v Bath – England
Having only started following the Premiership for the last few seasons, neither Gloucester nor Bath have made a proper challenge for the title. However, one thing is clear, even to a neutral observer like myself, that these two teams don’t like each other very much.
The fans at both The Rec and Kingsholm are in full voice any time they attend these West Country derby matches and players have talked at length about how hostile the atmosphere is.
The 2014 match between the sides which ended up having two red cards, five yellow cards and a fight.
Interestingly TNT Sports promote this rivalry as one of the fiercest, which is perhaps something rugby could do more of.
Bulls v Stormers – South Africa
Probably the two biggest fanbases within South African rugby, when they play it is billed as the north versus south derby.
It’s certainly one of the most well attended fixtures of the regular season for both sides. In the regular season 2022/23 more than 41,000 fans packed out Loftus and 30,000 for the reverse fixture in Cape Town.
Both sides have pipped each other for trophies in the past. The Bulls picked up their third Super Rugby title over the Stormers back in 2010 and the Stormers won the inaugural URC title over the Bulls.
The rivalry certainly pre-dates franchise days of URC and Super Rugby, but is always one of the must-watch fixtures of the club rugby calendar.
Glasgow v Edinburgh – Scotland
Having an actual trophy to play for adds something extra to the matches between Scottish rivals Glasgow and Edinburgh. The side having the better aggregate score over each season’s two matches claims the honours.
The fact these are the only two Scottish sides going head-to-head and players are competing for international spots certainly adds some heat.
Fixtures have been pretty even over the last few years too. Glasgow took the trophy in 2022/23, but Edinburgh the previous season and Glasgow the season before that.
Attendance wise when Edinburgh open up Murrayfield for this game they regularly get around 25,000 people along, which highlights what it means to the Scottish rugby public too.
Admittedly I’ve not seen enough of the Top 14 to get a feeling for the rivalries in these sides, but certainly in recent years battles between Toulouse and La Rochelle have been comparable with Test level.
In Australia, the traditional New South Wales vs Queensland rivalry has suffered from both sides struggling to keep with the Brumbies.
In Wales the regional structure, perhaps like in New Zealand, has taken away some of the traditional rivalries from the amateur era, but Ospreys and Scarlets tends to be heated.