RUGBY2Liat Geller believes Israel’s women’s rugby team can claim gold at this summer’s European Championships, after she saw them claim second place at last weekend’s Athens Cup.

Playing six games at the two-day event, they beat Mamas (Sweden) 12-0, Georgia 12-7, Malta 40-5 and Greece 41-0 on the first day, and beat Malta 30-5 von the second, before losing 7-5 to Georgia.

However, proud of the side’s achievements in Greece, Geller, who’s the oldest member of the squad, said: “This was our first opportunity in almost a year to play together as a team and I couldn’t be more proud of each of my teammates. If one thing is clear from this tournament, it’s that each player that steps on the pitch is there to support her teammate. We accomplished as much as we did because we were able to depend on each other.”

“This tournament in Athens just strengthened my faith in our team and there is no doubt in my mind that this group of women will take first place [at the European Championships].”

Happy with how they played with each other, she said: “The Athens’ Cup is made up of teams from different international leagues. When we arrived, we knew it wasn’t going to be an easy fight. On our first day of play, we swept our competition and played a level of rugby that Israel’s national team has never known (and I’ve been playing for quite some time). Our team not only held its own against higher ranking teams, but even beat them. We definitely proved that we deserve a place on the pitch in higher leagues.

“On the second day we gave a strong fight and unfortunately lost to Georgia, the fourth place team in the A league. The loss will help us more than our wins though. We were able to understand the areas in which we must improve if we want to take the European Championships. Of course we were disappointed with the loss, but we have already started working on our mistakes and studying that game to become even better.”

Boosted in confidence having seen they perform so well over the two days, the tournament was in preparation for June’s tournament, which could also serve as a prelude to the Rio Olympics in 2016. She said: “The Olympics is a far off goal that we still have our sights on. We will not give up until the last whistle. I think realistically, we may not yet be at an Olympic level, but anything can happen on the pitch. With the way rugby in Israel is advancing, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Israeli team on the pitch in 2020.”