RWC Team Preview: Russia

Rugby World Cup Pedigree:

This is Russia’s first ever Rugby World Cup, and they are the only side in this year’s competition making their first appearance. Currently ranked 19th in the world, one place ahead of Namibia, it is safe to say that the Russians are not expected to produce many fireworks, being in a pool alongside Australia, Ireland, Italy and the USA.

Track Record:

As this is their first qualification, Russia have no track record so to speak of. They came remarkably close to qualifying for the last tournament in 2007 which was held in France, losing in a qualification knock out match 26-23 against Portugal, as well as being rather controversially disqualified from qualification in 2003 for fielding three ineligible South African players. This time round their qualification came from coming second in the European Nations Cup last year behind Georgia.

Best Rugby World Cup moment:

After failing to qualify 4 times in a row between 1995-2007, Russia’s key victory against Romania in Bucharest came as a shock in February 2009, ultimately proving to be the first step on their way to collecting 25 league points to their opponents 23, and seeing them automatically qualify for the tournament in New Zealand.

Biggest Win: 104-7 v Denmark (May 13, 2000)
Biggest Defeat: 3-75 v Russia (November 6, 2010)

Key player:

New Northampton signing Vasily Artemyev represents the Bears best attacking threat. The first Russian player to sign for a Premiership side, just weeks before second row Andrey Ostrikov agreed to join Sale, Artemyev’s pace was shown in the Churchill Cup in recent years. With impeccable English, Artemyev grew up playing rugby in Ireland and has a slight Irish accent. He potentially could be one of the stars of the World Cup, much like USA speedster Taku Ngwenya in 2007.

One to watch:

Adam Byrnes should be no stranger to fans of Super Rugby after his performances for the Queensland Reds and Melbourne Rebels, but his inclusion in the Russia squad might come as a surprise. Byrnes qualifies for the Bears through his maternal grandparents, who were both born in the USSR, and he will bring a real element of class to the side as well as grunt in the engine room. He is uncapped going into the tournament, and will no doubt relish coming up against some regular team-mates and opponents when Russia take on Australia in their pool.

Rugby World Cup Fixtures:

v USA (September 15, 08:30)

v Italy (September 20, 08:30)

v Ireland (September 25, 06:00)

v Australia (October 1, 03:30)

Key Clash:

Russia’s best chance of a first win at the Rugby World Cup has to come against the USA, and there’s little doubt that Kingsley Jones will be targeting this game over the others. Russia will help to gain some supremacy in the set-piece, and then cause some problems out wide with their rapid back three.

Odds: A cool 1000/1 on to win outright. It would be the upset of all upsets. But worth putting a pound down.

Russia coach Kingsley Jones says:

“The natural inclination of Russian players is to express and enjoy themselves but with only eight professional clubs in Russia and 130 players, many of whom are not eligible for the national side, they are liable to make mistakes in attack and defence. But what fires me is their enthusiasm. I come off the training field buzzing in a way I have not for years. These guys can play. The World Cup is a big opportunity for us and we have to make sure we do not disgrace ourselves.”

Russia winger Vasily Artemyev says:

“We don’t want to just turn up at the World Cup. We’ve got there and that is great, but we don’t want to waste the opportunity. We want to perform in every game, even against the top teams, and show the world that the Russian rugby team is full of composed, tough and hardworking professionals with a good attitude. Our top goal is to get a win. Our first match is against the USA, and that is our best chance to get a positive result. We’ll be big underdogs for the rest of the games.”


You want any debut side to perform well, but Russia are in a very hard group and are still a work in progress. The USA represents their best shot at some glory.

Position: 5th in the pool.

by Ben Coles

One thought on “RWC Team Preview: Russia

  1. I watched Russia play the Ospreys last weekend. They lost 46-19, albeit to a fairly strong Ospreys starting XV. They had already gone down to a similar scoreline against the Dragons.

    Russia looked full of enthusiasm, lively at half-back, and fairly nippy in the three-quarters. Artemyev scored the pick of their three tries.

    Sadly, they struggled horribly up front. Despite a decent showing from the back-row in loose play, their forwards were constantly outmuscled and their scrum was an absolute disaster. At one point it was shoved about 20 metres, and was hardly ever able to secure its own ball – and the front five was where the Ospreys were most depleted.

    The fact that Russia scored two tries in the second half suggests that their fitness is decent, and speaks to their commitment as a squad. I can’t help but fear, however, that international scrummaging outfits will simply march them around the pitch at will. Those promising backs might not see enough ball to make names for themselves.

    Highlights of the match from the Ospreys’ site:

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