While the Rugby World Cup is underway in France, Germany is just watching. This is not unusual – and the prospects give little reason for hope.
In Paris, the past, present and future of German rugby are coming together in a miraculous way. In the north, in the famous Stade de France, the final of the current World Cup will be played at the end of October.
In the west, the futuristic Jean-Bouin Rugby Stadium will host the German House at next year’s Summer Games. As usual, a German team is not taking part in both major events – and yet somehow they are.
One-man show is history
For years, German rugby was sponsored and managed by entrepreneur Hans-Peter Wild – that has been history for some time. After the Wild era and further turbulence in the association, we started practically from scratch. The DSV is slowly fighting its way back up – also in sport.
The European Championship tournament, in which the World Cup participants Georgia, Romania and Portugal were represented, finished in sixth place. Respectable, but we are practically light years away from a World Cup. “Among other things, Germany lacks professional structures to have a realistic chance of taking part in the World Cup,” is how current sports director Manuel Wilhelm puts it.
No sponsors in sight
Translated, this means: there is a lack of major sponsors. In order to have a realistic chance of participating in the World Cup in the medium term, five to ten million euros are needed per year. This would make it possible to set up something like a professional national team. 35 players received a decent salary, supervisors could be hired and professional training opportunities could be created. There are also trips to the best teams in the world. “And this framework would still be relatively small compared to large rugby nations,” emphasized Wilhelm.
At the moment it is simply not desirable to play rugby in Germany. “There is no real career opportunity,” said Wilhelm. You have to subordinate everything to sport, possibly risking your health and going through a physical transformation “that makes you look like a cross between a judoka and a weightlifter.” “And all of this for a few hundred euros. That doesn’t work,” explained Wilhelm.
Talents are leaving
This means that the best players usually don’t play for the national team. The 22-year-old Anton Segner from Frankfurt has moved to New Zealand and can even have legitimate hopes of playing for the famous All Blacks one day. According to the rules of the world association, this is possible if you have spent five years in the country in question. Oscar Rixen, who is one year younger, is trying the same step in France.
Other legionnaires are also not seen in the national jersey – for financial reasons. They always have to fight for the next contract at their respective clubs. The best chances of being used are when the top players are with their respective national teams. “It’s understandable that they stay with their clubs. In the national team you play for honor, but that doesn’t fill the fridge,” says Wilhelm.
Rugby 7s as an opportunity
Participation in the World Cup, Wilhelm believes, would possibly help German rugby gain a major sponsor. However, it is more realistic to take part in the Olympic Games one day. Because the 7-man selection consists of the only professionals that we currently have in Germany. The 15-man team playing for World Cup qualification could also benefit from this one day.