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Multinational teams

Combination sides

  • Established in 1950, East Africa has conducted seven tours between 1954 and 1982 and has played against incoming international, representative and club touring sides including twice against the British Lions; perhaps the only example of representative (as opposed to invitational) multinational teams playing against each other. They have also played against the Baa Baa’s.
  • The African Leopards are a development side drawn from across Africa, they have played representational rugby union against South African students.
  • Arabian Gulf rugby union team combined various teams from the Arabian peninsula and competed in World Cup qualification. The Arabian Gulf Rugby Union has now been dismantled and responsibility for the game devolved to each of the member nations, but this does not mean that the team may not be revived in future.
  • World XV sides have also been fielded eight times between 1977 and 2008.

Invitation sides

Other invitational sides past and present include:

National teams – tier classification

The sport’s international governing body, the International Rugby Board, organises its member unions into three tiers.[1] All Tier 1 and 2 nations have competed in the Rugby World Cup (RWC). Tier 3 nations with RWC experience are shown in bold.

Tier 1

Northern Hemisphere countries Southern Hemisphere countries
  • The Northern Hemisphere countries participate in the Six Nations Championship.
  • The Southern Hemisphere countries participate in the Tri Nations with Argentina entering from 2012.

Tier 2

  •  Canada (“The Canucks”)
  •  Fiji (“The Flying Fijians”)
  •  Japan (“The Cherry Blossoms” and more recently “Brave Blossoms”)
  •  Romania (“The Oaks”)
  •  Samoa (Manu Samoa)
  •  Tonga (Ikale Tahi)
  •  USA (“The Eagles”)

Tier 3

The remaining unions are all classified in “Tier 3”. Tier 3 with RWC experience:

Tier 3 with no RWC experience:

National teams – band classification

Starting in 2008, in addition to the existing tier system, the IRB introduced a four-band system of classification in which unions and, by extension, teams are classified based on “their development status and record on the international stage”. The new structure is:[2]

High performance

All countries previously in Tiers 1 and 2.


These are countries earmarked for increased developmental funding and include


Again, the IRB did not release a list of unions in this category, but named several as being in this band:

Other teams

Several of these sides are French dependencies.

Defunct national sides

Various national sides have ceased to exist for political reasons. In the case of the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, there is more than one successor team. In the case of Catalonia, the Spanish Civil War and Franco’s crackdown put an end to it, and in the case of East and West Germany, reunification made them back into a single side.

The Arabian Gulf team and its governing union are scheduled to be dissolved by the end of 2010, to be replaced by separate unions and national teams in each of its current members.

Women’s rugby

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