Rugby will be firmly on the sports agenda in Spain this month with back-to-back tournaments on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series set to be hosted there.
Malaga (21-23 January) and Seville (28-30 January) are the venues for the next men’s and women’s tournaments as the World Series ventures into the previously untouched territory.
However, Spain isn’t a complete outlier as a major rugby destination with some big matches involving teams from outside its own borders playing there in the past, including Rugby World Cup 2002.
Here, we take a look at some examples of when Spain was front and centre of rugby’s shop window.
A huge day for rugby in Spain, 25,000 sell out for the Copa del Ray with the King of Spain in attendance! pic.twitter.com/DiY8S1PrTg— World Rugby (@WorldRugby) April 17, 2016
2016 COPA DEL RAY DE RUGBY FINAL: EL SALVADOR 13-9 VALLADOLID RUGBY ASOCIACIÓN CLUB (VRAC)
Domestic Spanish rugby doesn’t capture the headlines in quite the same way as the Top 14 does over the border in France, but after getting the royal seal of approval, the 2016 Copa del Ray de Rugby final definitely had its day in the sun (and rain), as poor weather in the first half was replaced by more favourable conditions in the second.
A capacity crowd of 26,000 crammed inside Valladolid’s Estadio Jose Zorilla to watch the local rivals and two giants of Spanish rugby go at each other hammer and tongs.
Among the throng of supporters to see Alberto Díaz score the decisive try was King Felipe VI, who marched onto the field at the final whistle to present the Cup that bears his name to the victorious El Salvador team.
It was an occasion fit for a King and one Spanish domestic club rugby will hope to repeat more often in the years to come.
RUGBY WORLD CUP 2002 FINAL: ENGLAND 9-19 NEW ZEALAND
A decade after Barcelona’s Estadi Olimpic de Montjuic had reverberated with the sights and sounds of the Olympic Games, the famous venue played host to the Rugby World Cup 2002 final.
The 8,000 crowd in the stands were treated to a blend of tactical awareness, gritty forward play and attacking rugby as the Black Ferns successfully defended their crown in what was the first in a trilogy of finals between the teams.
Tammi Wilson and Shelley Rae exchanged early penalties, while the latter also added a drop goal to help give England a 9-6 lead after 23 minutes.
That was as good as it got for England, though, as Monique Hirovanaa and Cheryl Waaka scored tries either side of half-time and Hannah Porter’s late penalty put the seal on New Zealand’s second Rugby World Cup triumph.
2010 HEINEKEN CUP QUARTER-FINAL: BIARRITZ 29-28 OSPREYS
Ospreys arrived in the Basque country with a team of Galacticos and with a very real chance of taking a step closer to becoming the first Welsh European Cup champions.
The game had sizzled from start to finish in the fierce heat at the Estadio Anoeta in San Sebastian, with the 32,000 revelling in a pulsating contest that included a scorching 70-metre run from USA winger Takudzwa Ngwenya.
After all the cut-and-thrust, Ospreys trailed by a point with only seconds remaining despite outscoring the French outfit three tries to two. But they were given one last opportunity to secure a place in the last four for the first time; however, Dan Biggar failed with a last-gasp drop goal attempt and the Ospreys were left to imagine what might have been.
2016 TOP 14 FINAL: RACING 92 29-21 TOULON
The biggest crowd in club rugby history watched Racing 92 defeat RC Toulon to win the 2016 Top 14 championship for the first time in 26 years.
There were 99,124 people in Barcelona’s Nou Camp as the Parisians ended their long wait to get their hands on the French league title despite losing France scrum-half Maxime Machenaud to an early red card.
The action and atmosphere inside the ground lived up to the occasion, with a sea of light blue and white colours representing Racing and a bank of back and red representing Toulon in the stands.
Racing played the final hour down to 14 men following Machenaud’s dismissal and trailed 14-12 at the break. But they battled back brilliantly in the second half to put the disappointment of losing the Champions Cup final to Saracens a month earlier behind them.
Two-time Rugby World Cup winner, Dan Carter, put in a man-of-the-match performance, kicking five penalties to add to three from Johan Goosen and Joe Rokocoko’s try.
2018 HEINEKEN CHAMPIONS CUP FINAL: LEINSTER 15-12 RACING 92
Bilbao’s San Mamés Stadium was the magnificent setting as Leinster equalled Toulouse’s record of four European Cup crowns in a try-less encounter.
In a cagey kicking duel, Johnny Sexton and Teddy Iribaren had cancelled each other out with three penalties apiece before Iribaren slotted a fourth attempt to put the Parisians 12-9 up.
It was then left to Leinster’s retiring captain, Isa Nacewa, to firstly level the scores and then step up and become the hero, the winger booting the Irishmen in front late on.