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Rugby in Israel: The Lions’ Leap in Israeli Rugby

Football players training on a pitch at sunset with stadium lights on.

Rugby might not be the first sport that springs to mind when you think of Israel, but it’s making impressive strides. Since British soldiers introduced rugby union during their mandate, the game has seen steady growth in this Middle Eastern nation.

This article unpacks how Israel is defying expectations and emerging as a contender on the rugby field, from grassroots clubs to professional play. Dive in to discover “The Lions’ Leap” in Israeli rugby!

Key Takeaways

  • Rugby in Israel started with British soldiers during the mandate period and has evolved with the establishment of clubs like Jerusalem Lions RFC.
  • Women’s rugby in Israel is gaining momentum, with increased participation and support from the Israel Rugby Union.
  • The national team competes in the European Conference 1 South group, demonstrating their skill internationally, while former Wallaby player Israel Folau brings added expertise to the squad.
  • Tel Aviv Heat is currently the only professional Israeli rugby team, aiming to raise standards for domestic and international play.
  • Development plans aim to grow rugby at grassroots levels within schools and communities across Israel, potentially leading to future success on global stages.

History of Rugby in Israel

Rugby in Israel has a history that dates back to the 1950s, with notable growth and development in the 1970s. The sport has also seen participation in the Maccabiah Games, showcasing its presence in Israeli sports culture.

Beginnings in the 1950s

British soldiers brought the rugged game of rugby union to Israel’s shores during the era of the British Mandate for Palestine. This exciting sport found its first enthusiasts among locals and expatriates alike, who eagerly embraced the physicality and camaraderie it offered.

Matches sprang up as informal gatherings, with players sharing knowledge and building a community around this newfound passion.

These pioneers laid groundwork that would see Israeli rugby flourish in years to come. With each scrum and try, they sowed seeds that would grow into a rich tapestry of clubs, teams and competitions across the nation.

As we look back on these formative days of Israeli rugby, it’s clear that those early scrimmages were just a prelude to an ever-expanding saga – teeing up for growth and development in the 1970s.

Growth and development in the 1970s

Moving forward from the beginnings of rugby in the 1950s, the sport began to gain solid ground during the 1970s. The Jerusalem Lions RFC, an amateur team founded at this time, was instrumental in promoting and popularising rugby within Israel.

This decade witnessed steady growth, with more clubs being established across the country and increased participation in local tournaments and leagues. As interest surged, there was a significant rise in grassroots programmes aimed at nurturing talent and spreading awareness about rugby’s values and traditions.

These developments set a strong foundation for Israeli rugby’s future endeavours.

Participation in the Maccabiah Games

Israel’s national rugby team has been a regular participant in the prestigious Maccabiah Games, showcasing their talent and dedication on an international stage. The Maccabiah Games provide a platform for Israeli rugby players to compete against teams from around the world, gaining invaluable experience and exposure while representing their country with pride.

This participation not only highlights Israel’s growing footprint in the global rugby community but also serves as a testament to the sport’s popularity and development within the nation.

National Team

The Israeli National Rugby Team has seen success in the European Conference 1 South group, and former Wallaby player Israel Folau has joined the team, bringing experience and skill to the lineup.

Success in the European Conference 1 South group

Israel’s national rugby team has achieved remarkable success in the European Conference 1 South group, making strides in the international rugby arena. The team’s impressive performance has showcased their growing prowess and determination as they compete at a high level.

Their participation in this prestigious conference marks an important milestone for Israeli rugby, demonstrating their ability to hold their own against established teams and further solidify their presence on the global stage.

The Israeli national rugby team’s success in the European Conference 1 South group reflects their dedication and commitment to elevating the sport within the country. This achievement not only highlights their competitive spirit but also paves the way for greater opportunities for development and expansion of rugby across Israel.

Former Wallaby player Israel Folau joins the team

Israel Folau, a former Wallaby player known for his exceptional talent and skill, has joined the Israeli national rugby union team. His wealth of experience and prowess on the field brings a new level of expertise to the team’s lineup.

With his arrival, Israel’s national team is poised to benefit from his strategic playmaking abilities and dedication to the sport. Folau’s addition signifies a significant leap for Israeli rugby as it strives for international competitiveness.

Folau’s decision to join Israel’s national rugby union team comes at an opportune time when the squad is making strides in international competitions, including showcasing their capabilities in matches against formidable opponents.

Domestic Rugby

– The only professional team in Israel: Tel Aviv Heat, is making strides in the domestic rugby scene, with several former clubs and current amateur teams contributing to the growth of the sport.

The only professional team in Israel: Tel Aviv Heat

Tel Aviv Heat stands as the sole professional rugby team in Israel, marking a significant milestone for the sport in the country. With their inaugural match slated for 2023, Tel Aviv Heat’s rise to professionalism has captured the attention of rugby enthusiasts nationwide.

The team’s endeavours are poised to elevate Israeli rugby onto an international platform, symbolising a new era of competitive and professional play within the region.

Currently, no other professional rugby team exists in Israel apart from Tel Aviv Heat. This development underscores the growing interest and potential for rugby as a premier sporting activity within the nation.

Former clubs and current amateur teams

The only professional team in Israel, the Tel Aviv Heat, has been pivotal in shaping the landscape of rugby in the country. Alongside this professional team, there are several former clubs and current amateur teams that have contributed significantly to the growth of rugby in Israel.

  1. Jerusalem Lions RFC: Founded in the 1970s, this amateur rugby club is based in Jerusalem and has a rich history of fostering the sport at the grassroots level.
  2. Haifa Hawks: This amateur team hails from the northern city of Haifa and has played a crucial role in promoting rugby in their local community.
  3. Ashdod Scorpions: Another key player on the amateur rugby scene, this club represents Ashdod and is integral to expanding the reach of rugby within Israel.
  4. Be’er Sheva Broncos: Located in Be’er Sheva, this amateur team has garnered a strong following and contributes to the overall development of rugby across different regions.
  5. Petah Tikva Tigers: This amateur club from Petah Tikva has been instrumental in nurturing young talent and providing opportunities for aspiring rugby players.
  6. Netanya Sharks: Representing Netanya, this amateur team plays an essential role in creating a vibrant rugby culture and fostering a sense of community around the sport.
  7. Eilat Dolphins: Based in Eilat, this amateur club has helped extend the presence of rugby to the southernmost region of Israel and continues to be a driving force for the sport’s growth.
  8. Rehovot Raccoons: With its presence in Rehovot, this amateur team plays an active part in developing local talent and furthering interest in rugby within their community.

Women’s Rugby

Representation and growth of women’s rugby in Israel have been on the rise, with more participation and recognition in recent years.

Representation and growth of women’s rugby in Israel

The representation of women in rugby is steadily growing across Israel. The sport has been gaining popularity among women, with several clubs and teams emerging to encourage female participation and develop their skills on the field.

In line with this growth, the Israel Rugby Union has been actively promoting and supporting women’s rugby at both grassroots and national levels, fostering a welcoming environment for female players to thrive.

With this focus on inclusion and expansion, more opportunities are opening up for women to engage in rugby across the country.

Future of Israeli Rugby

Plans for expansion and development are underway, with the aim of increasing participation and building a stronger international presence. There is potential for Israeli rugby to make its mark on the world stage in the near future.

Plans for expansion and development

The Israel Rugby Union is actively working on expanding and developing the sport across the nation, with a clear focus on increasing participation at all levels. The emphasis is on nurturing grassroots rugby programmes to cultivate young talent and broaden the player base for both men’s and women’s rugby.

As part of these plans, initiatives are underway to introduce rugby into more schools and communities throughout Israel, aiming to create a strong foundation for the future growth of the sport.

Furthermore, there is a concerted effort to improve training facilities and infrastructure in order to provide better resources for existing players and encourage newcomers to take up rugby.

To propel Israeli rugby onto the international stage, there are ongoing discussions about establishing partnerships with overseas clubs and organisations. These collaborations aim to offer opportunities for Israeli players to compete abroad, gaining valuable experience while showcasing their skills globally.

Additionally, efforts are being made towards enhancing coaching standards by introducing certification programmes and workshops led by experienced coaches from renowned rugby-playing nations.

Potential for international success

Israel’s national rugby union team has been steadily climbing the ranks, showcasing their potential for international success. With impressive performances in various competitions and events, the team is gaining recognition on the global stage.

The inclusion of former Wallaby player Israel Folau has added further depth and expertise to the squad, enhancing their capabilities and competitiveness.

As Israel continues to participate in international matches and tournaments, their presence in the world of rugby is becoming more prominent. Their expansion plans and active involvement in developing the sport across the country also bode well for their future prospects on an international level.


Israeli Rugby has made significant strides in recent years, with the national team achieving success in international competitions. The rise of domestic teams like Tel Aviv Heat and the growing popularity of women’s rugby indicate a promising future for the sport in Israel.

As plans for expansion and development take shape, Israeli rugby shows great potential for further growth and international success.


1. What types of rugby are played in Israel?

In Israel, both rugby union and rugby league are played, showcasing the diverse appeal of the sport across the country.

2. How is the Jerusalem Lions Rugby team doing?

The Jerusalem Lions Rugby team is making impressive progress and contributing to the growth of rugby in Israel with their dynamic performances.

3. Can Israeli teams participate in international contests like the Rugby World Cup?

Yes, Israeli rugby teams aim to compete at higher levels such as the Rugby World Cup by improving their game and gaining recognition on a global stage.

4. Are there regular rugby matches for fans to watch in Israel?

Fans can enjoy watching regular rugby matches throughout Israel where local teams compete enthusiastically against each other.

5. Has there been an influence from Australian rugby in Israel’s leagues?

Certainly! There’s been some influence from Australian rugby with dual-code players bringing different skill sets to enhance both Israeli Rugby Union and League games.

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