Source: Dennis van de Sande

Dutch Courage

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Portugal v Netherlands

The big game is Portugal v Netherlands – details below.

After outclassing Sweden 59-0 on 3 February in Amsterdam, the Oranjes have got their European Championship hopes off to a positive start. The DJ on duty may have thought he was being overworked as he was required to spew another number on to the airwaves after every try.

It was good to see a well-filled stand watching on. Spectators had plenty to admire about their team. They jumped to a 37-0 lead at half-time, and hardly let up afterwards.

Dutch eyes have been fixed on another meeting with Spain for some time. Las Leonas have proved much the strongest of the European teams beyond the Six Nations; last time the two teams met Spain won convincingly. But the Dutch head coach, Sylke Haverkorn, must have been delighted with this latest showing. Since November she has been assisted by three coaches who steered the men’s Under 20 side to success, Gareth Gilbert, Mathew Cripps en Dino Bozic. It sets them up well for coming fixtures against Portugal and Colombia.

That name Colombia may well set you thinking about the World Cup. It was they who provided the dreamiest entry to the latter stages in 2022. But it was their fate to finish last of the eighteen teams on show.

The presence of those three matches within a short period is a positive sign in itself. All too often in the past nations have had to wait impatiently for the next test to pop up. Now, with World Rugby’s positive input, players can gain advantage from meeting up far more regularly.

The Dutch have to battle against their hockey and football sisters, hockey being their great team strength. So at present only one of the national rugby squad plays in England, the captain, Linde van der Velden, at Exeter Chiefs. She was especially delighted to see her team keep a clean sheet. She put that down to their serious approach to the game; they constantly sought out areas that needed improving.

For Sweden this was a setback, but we must bear in mind that they returned to the Euro Championships only last year. Amanda Swartz, their captain and now of Leicester Tigers, was full of optimism for the future, but the programme offered them only two matches in the year, the other being against Spain, who can’t find competition strong enough at this level to feel fully satisfied.

The Swedes had a big boost in travelling to Aldershot to take on the British Army and winning that duel 27-0.

So Rugby Europe’s long-term plan must be to build up the number of matches these predominantly amateur players can enjoy each year. No easy task. And, as everywhere in rugby, difference in standards can become all too quickly obvious.

It’s only a few days since I mentioned Germany’s hoped-for meeting with Belgium on 2 March. We must hope that more and more European nations can meet up like this. Then comes the question: how could the RFU help by offering more contests?

Is it quite impossible for them to arrange, for example, games against age-group sides on a more frequent basis? Amsterdam is closer to London than Edinburgh or Cork.

Coming fixtures

24 February Portugal v Netherlands (details below)
16 March Netherlands v Colombia (Qualifier for RWC 2025)
6 April Netherlands v Spain

All games under the Rugby Europe banner are viewable on rugbyeurope.tv

Portugal v Netherlands, Jamor, Portugal; KO 12.30, local time

De Oranjes will be aware that As Lobas take their rugby extremely seriously.

Teams:

Portugal

1 Carlota Torres 2 Ines Cristo Ventura Marques 3 Beatriz Rodrigues 4 Ana Casas 5 Ana Fernandes 6 Laura Pereira 7 Arleta Consalves 8 Adelina Costa 9 Ana Santos 10 Isabel Osorio 11 Antonia Martins 12 Maria Costa 13 Mariana Marques 14 Ines Spinola 15 Daniela Correia

Bench: 16 Elsa Santos 17 Maria Teixeira 18 Sara Magalhaes 19 Ines Barbosa 20 Marion Mazer 21 Beatriz Oliveira 22 Marta Pedro 23 Mariana Santos
Head Coach: Joao Moura

Netherlands:
1 Nicky Dix 2 Anoushka Beukers 3 Brechtje Karst 4 Inger Jongerius 5 Isa Prins 6 Elisabeth Boot 7 Mariet Luijken 8 Linde van der Velden (captain) 9 Esmee Ligtvoet 10 Jet Anita Metz 11 Gaya van Nifterik 12 Pien Selbeck 13 Isa Spoler 14 Senne Hoog 15 Jordan Heil

Bench: 16 Sydney de Weijer 17 Supartie van Heerde 18 Julia Morauw 19 Julia Verhoeven 20 Mhina de Vos 21 Quen Makkinga 22 Marit Lemmens 23 Lieve Stallmann
Head Coach: Sylke Haverkorn

Referee: Jenny Lee (Spain)

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