Rugby Club Esch “Les Furets”; Credit: RCE

The Esch-sur-Alzette-based Rugby Club Esch “Les Furets” recently celebrated its first anniversary. had the opportunity to speak with Rodrigo Esteves, Rugby Club Esch (RCE) Sports Director, to learn more about this quite new initiative, its development and plans for the future. Is this club a new entity, or has it undergone a renaming process from a previous club? Notably, it does not appear on the list of clubs on the Luxembourg Rugby Federation's website. Are there intentions to seek federation membership in the future?

Rodrigo Esteves: The Rugby Club Esch “Les Furets” is a completely new club officially registered at the FLR since July 2023, approved by unanimity [at] the general assembly. The FLR is working to update their website in order to have Rugby Club Esch “Les Furets” mentioned on their online page. Why did the local sports community decide to start a new rugby club, and what needs or opportunities does it aim to address within the community?

Rodrigo Esteves: Interesting question! Rugby Club Esch has completed one year of “existence” just [two weeks] ago, on 22 November. To explain how it all began we have to go back in time one year to November 2022 with a first training session at "Um Belval" park, a public park, bringing together three friends: Jim, Joël and Luigi. Three rugby enthusiasts were determined to establish a club in Esch-sur-Alzette thriving on passion for this sport. Rugby is not yet popular in the Grand Duchy, with only a few teams. Nevertheless, the impact of the last World Cup was felt, and the media were increasingly shining a spotlight on this sport.

It is our intention to diversify the sports culture in the south of Luxembourg and give an opportunity to all those who want to try this amazing sport. Unfortunately, the presence of rugby is diminished in this part of the country and its our aim to further develop the enthusiasm around rugby practice. How do you plan to build and sustain the new rugby club, considering aspects such as player recruitment, facilities and community engagement?

Rodrigo Esteves: It was not always easy, but we have been building our club structure step by step. Starting with three players and achieving 20 players plus a few other enthusiasts that pass by from time to time requires passion, dedication and lots of time. We have no words to describe the community's acceptance of this experience and in fact people no longer use the term Rugby Club Esch but instead “Les Furets” in their daily talks [proving a closer connection] between community and club.

We primarily use social media to advertise and promote the team, […] and soon our own website will be available. The second method, an ancient one, relies on close contact within community, friends, workplaces, events, everywhere - which consists of spreading the word.

Regarding the facilities, we also came a long way, from training in a public park in Belval on Sundays until this past September we celebrated an agreement with local clubs and the Esch municipality to allow us to have proper facilities. Training sessions are held twice a week on the communal fields of US Esch Lallange (Mondays from 19:30) and Jeunesse Esch Hiehl (Thursdays from 19:30). Our warmest thanks to the clubs and Esch municipality for their support. It is also our intention to attract different sponsors […]. Are there any plans to apply for participation in the leagues of Germany, France or Belgium?

Rodrigo Esteves: Yes, as being part of the Federation and having a rugby XV senior male team, we compromise ourselves to take part in the German league, as the other Luxembourgish teams already do. This year won’t be possible for the Rugby Club Esch but for sure next season 2024-2025, we will be disputing a nice place and who knows how far we can reach. There won’t be a lack of passion and motivation for sure.

As for the current season, the club is still taking its first steps, therefore we are mainly focused on tournaments, notably the well-known Flanders Open that will take place in Belgium next May 2024 marking the great debut for “Les Furets” and perhaps a Beach Rugby Tournament in Porto, Portugal during the summer. We also acknowledge the fact that we will need this current year to put a nice formation ready to dispute a competitive league. Is the club primarily focused on age-group rugby, particularly for children, or does it also emphasise senior rugby? Furthermore, is there an intention to cater to the participation of girls and women in the club's activities?

Rodrigo Esteves: The Rugby Club Esch main team is currently focused on the XV male senior team. As the club tries to implement itself and grow roots in the region, we opted to start this way. However, it is our intention to grow to offer the possibility to younger players to join the “Les Furets”, U8, U12, U14, U18 and a full female team in the near future.  We knew there was a lot of potential in the south region and we weren’t wrong with the contacts and messages we received from younger players on our Facebook page and email address who wanted to know more.

Rugby Club Esch, despite being a male team in its essence, currently has within his ranks five ladies ranging from sixteen to 40 years old and we encourage more to join us. Rugby is an inclusive sport open to everyone; rugby does not discriminate. […] Rugby Club Esch is a new club with its doors open to all players. It does not matter if it is a beginner or an experienced player, we welcome everyone to join our team and become part of this big family.