This weekend sees the first round of matches in the Czech Republic First Division. Reigning champions Mad Squirrels Vrchlabi host debutants Deers Rychnov nad Kněžnou today (Saturday) and Sunday sees a clash between Slavia Hradec Kralove and Dragons Krupka, both former champions.
With the national team playing in the men’s Euro B Championship in October against Germany and Netherlands, national team coach David Lahr is hoping that the incentive of being selected for those games will ensure a competitive and entertaining season.
‘’Every eligible player has the opportunity to show us that they deserve a place in the squad,” said Lahr. “We hope to be encouraged and inspired by domestic performances and take some momentum into the Euro B games”.
Deers Rychnov’s rise to the top flight within two years of forming in 2021 is a remarkable achievement and the size of the challenge ahead is acknowledged by player/coach Stepan Marek. ‘’We are excited to be playing in the same division against three clubs that are all former champions. We are under no illusions that this will be anything other than a tough baptism for us in the top division, but we have prepared well and cannot wait and get out onto the field,’’ Marek noted.
Mad Squirrels Vrchlabi, whose last gasp 22-20 victory in 2022’s Grand Final against Slavia Hradec saw them crowned as Czech champions for the first time, have had an excellent start to the year. They won the Czech 9’s Spring Tournament played over four weekends across the country, and last weekend travelled to Poland where they beat an improving Sroki Lodz team 36-6 in a fiercely fought game. Skipper Jakub Hudrlik confirmed: ‘’Our preparations have been solid. We need to stay focussed to repeat what we achieved last year.’’
Slavia Hradec Kralove’s captain, Jakub Tychy, admitted that they will use the heartache at losing last year’s Grand Final to a late converted try into strength and positivity for the season ahead. ‘’We aim to go one step further than last season,’’ he said.
Three times Czech champions Dragons Krupka are ready for the kick off. Captain Daniel Vesely noted: ‘’Last year was a period of change for us in that we had many new and inexperienced players selected throughout the season. They will be stronger this year and we are looking to improve on last year’s performances.’’
The teams play each other home and away with the top two at the end of the regular season facing off in the Czech Grand Final to be played on Saturday 30 September.