Two matches played previously and three to come this weekend. The promoted Czechs beat Poland 19 – 14 in a hard-fought battle while the Netherlands away outclassed Moldova 59 – 7. Poland were without their players from the championship club Lodz who for some reason were withdrawn from the team. They have not been selected for the home match against Moldova today, but a number of players plying their trade abroad have been brought in.

Moldovan rugby seems to be in a state of collapse, a bit similar to Sweden in fact, with clubs refusing to play in the league, all their star players refusing to play for the national team and infighting in the administration. The new chairman and vice-chairman are playing for Moldova today, perhaps something Kanogo could think about for Sweden, and the rest of the team seems to be second division players from Romania. Big score for Poland expected.

The remaining two Trophy games could be interesting; Switzerland play the Netherlands and the Czechs travel to Portugal. Despite the big win against Moldova, the Netherlands were not that impressive. If Switzerland can keep up the standard they maintained at the end of last season, this could be a close game. Switzerland were promoted to this level a year ago and were expected to struggle. But they more than held their own and it was the Ukraine who went down to the Swedish Conference level.

Finally, Portugal start off their season against the Czechs. Portugal, who played for many years at the Champonship level were relegated by the narrowest of margins a year ago but proved to be easily the best team at the Trophy level. They then had to beat Belgium in a play-off for the Championship but failed to do so, condemning them to a further Trophy season. The Czechs are rather plodding and not showing much progress at present. I expect Portugal to outthink and outpace them.