The Swedish XV lost the training match against Denmark 18 – 10 on Saturday, the first defeat by our neighbours in 16 years. Denmark play one level below Sweden in Europe. Since the present chairperson of the SRF was elected to her post, Sweden have now lost 20 internationals out of 21 and there is every reason to feel nervous about the game in three weeks time against Hungary.
It will be recalled that 37 Swedish players were called to a training camp last weekend in Malmö which was rounded off with the match against Denmark. It was immediately clear that 7 – 8 first choice players were not attending, but no explanation for this was given. Of those confirming attendance 28 turned up and a further four locals were added. Of the nine no-shows four were from Exiles and three from Pingvin, the two best Swedish teams who of course meet in the Championship finals for the next two weekends. This meant that about 12 of the first Swedish XV were not available against Denmark, which puts the result in perspective. It is unlikely that those not present will be selected against Hungary who, it will be recalled, were promoted from the lower European group after beating the likes of Denmark last year. This suggests the result of the Sweden – Hungary match is in doubt and we could even see Sweden being relegated for the second time in three years, an unthinkable situation not so long ago.
For the record: the present world rankings show Sweden at 61, its lowest ever ranking and a drop of almost 30 places from a few years ago, Hungary are ranked 70 and Denmark 86. That´s the company we´re keeping at present!
So where does the blame lie? I think for once the fault is not directly with the team administrators who have tried to get more or less the best players together. There are good players who refuse to play for Sweden under any circumstances because of the way they have been treated in the past, others because they are asked to pay to play and still others because the chairperson who arranges the fixture dates cares little for male rugby or players welfare and repeatedly arranges matches in direct proximity to the Swedish finals (where Exiles have qualified for the last 17 years).
As soon as I saw the first 37 selected I wrote that there was a serious shortage of front five power and, judging from the match report that seems to have been the main problem against Denmark. How that problem can be resolved I do not know as key players will now be devoting their attention to the finals and then it will be straight into the Hungary match.
The last four years have been a disaster for Male XVs in Sweden and it is obvious to me that changes at the top are necessary for there to be any lasting improvement.
Author: HM Senior