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History of rugby in Poland


According to some sources, the first Pole who ever played rugby was Sienkiewicz - the son of a Polish writer Henryk Sienkiewicz. In his book entitled ?Le Rugby?, Loys Van Lee writes about a few rugby clubs where Sienkiewicz played such as Racing Club or Stade Francais. Van Lee describes him as a young lad of impressive build, weighing about 100 kg. Sienkiewicz?s played in the second row.

Rugby reached Poland after World War I when Polish repatriates and soldiers fighting in France returned to Poland. Some of them were already rugby supporters who wished the new discipline so popular abroad found its supporters in Poland. The main initiator of Polish rugby was the Frenchman Louis Amblart who set up  the first Polish rugby club called ?White Eagle? located in Warsaw. The first official and open to public game was played on LKS ?Pogon? pitch in Lvov and took place on the 9th July 1922 between teams playing in the club of ?White Eagle?. The historic encounter of two Polish rugby teams ?The Whites? and ?The Blacks? with 15 players on each side ended up with the latter winning 3:6.  The game refereed by another Frenchman Robineau received a very good press coverage. Another club was established by Maurice Bacguet at the Infantry Cadet School in 1923.

Between 1921 and 1929 there were a few more rugby clubs apart from the ones mentioned above, namely: Medical Officer School, Anti-Aircraft Regiment, The University Sports Association, Varsovia (scout group), Sports Club KS Rozwoj, Ursynow School, Sports Club in Plock, School of Physical Education in Poznan, Sports Club in Murcki in Silesia. They played numerous friendly matches but no national championship was organized. The first international game took place in Bucharest in 1924. White Eagle was then defeated by the Romanian team called Probables (0:46) which at that time was getting ready for the Olympic Games (they won the bronze medal at the Olympics). The second best Romanian team called ?Possibles? defeated Polish White Eagle 0:17 in a return match.

Due to lack of interest in rugby among national sporting authorities, poor marketing strategy, lack of professional team coaches and equipment rugby was deemed to disappear from the sports map in Poland. Last press releases came from 1929 and after that rugby was absent from Polish popular sport disciplines for many many years.

Meanwhile the discipline was thriving around the world and gained popularity in new countries. Only after 26 years, on the 14th December 1955, did rugby become an official sport discipline in Poland which was regulated by the decree number 121 issued by the President of Physical Culture Committee.

In January 1956 three rugby supporters and journalists A. Karpiński W. Wojdyłło and W. Giełżyński called up a National Meeting of Rugby Supporters which resulted in forming of the Rugby Organizing Committee and appointing A. Karpiński the head of the Committee. Thus, the era of rugby re-launched in Poland ? 40 rugby instructors were trained by Alfons Zeda from  Czech Republic and 22 new clubs were set up. The first official game after World War II was played on ?Legia? pitch in Warsaw on 15th September 1956 between Warsaw club AZS-AWF and Kochlowice Club ?Gornik? (?the Miner?) with the result 3:0. In the same year the ?Sportsman? Editor Rugby Cup took place. In the finals Szczecin?s club ?Czarni? (?the Blacks?) lost the game to Warsaw?s AZS-AWF 9:14.

The first national Report and Election Conference took place on the 26th January 1957 and appointed A. Karpinski the head of Rugby Section operating within the General Committee of Physical Culture. Due to reorganization of Polish sport some rugby teams ceased to exist between 1956 and 1957 and only 16 were left. AZS-AWS Warszawa won  the first Polish Rugby Championship in 1957.
In 1957 rugby became one  of the specializations at the University of Physical Education in Warsaw. On the 9th  of September 1957 the Founding General Assembly of Polish Rugby Union (PZR) was held in Warsaw. Wladyslaw Trybus was appointed the first chairman of PZR.

On the 24th of August 1958 in Lodz,  Polish representation played  its first official international match where they beat German Democratic Republic 9:8 (0:5). Three thousand fans watched the game refereed by H. Ortelbach from GDR. Poland was represented by the following players: Wacław Moczulski, Zbigniew Janus, Jerzy Masoń, Józef Grochowski, Eugeniusz Szostak, Jerzy Koter, Andrzej Ważyński (Henryk Hodiak), Sławomir Frankowski, Józef Sokołowski, Franciszek Nowak (captain), Marian Głuszek, Bernard Stelmaszczyk (Eugeniusz Bartkowiak), Maciej Liepelt, Zdzisław Koniarz, Jan Chodkiewicz and the ones who scored were Marian Głuszek ? 6 points (two tries, 3 points each) i Eugeniusz Bartkowiak ? 3 points (penalty). Marian Bondarowicz was the team coach.  

The original text comes from the book entitled ?ABC of Rugby Supporter? written by Maciej Powala-Niedzwiecki.


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