Greece is expected to make its debut as an international rugby union team next spring after the Greek General Secretariat of Sport officially recognized the Hellenic Rugby Federation. The decision means financial support and assistance in facilities, including office space and development of the game. Government recognition is a prerequisite for acceptance by the International Rugby Board. The HRF, which is an umbrella organization that covers American football and rugby league as well as rugby union, has now become a member of FIRA, the governing body for amateur international rugby union in Europe, and an associate member of the IRB. «This is a key moment for rugby in Greece because it now means that we can accept invitations to play in international tournaments, both seven- and 15-a-side, and we can also benefit from courses for referees and coaches,» said Costas Phillipakis, technical director of the new federation. «It also means that the game can progress at a much faster rate than before. We expect to put a team together to play its first game in May next year,» he added. Greece recently launched its first official league with teams from Athens, Thessaloniki and Corinth. Athens Rugby, a newly formed team, played its first league match last Saturday against Thessaloniki Spartacus in Thessaloniki.