The way Russia qualified for the Rugby World Cup was unconventional, to say the least. Profiting from the scandal that enveloped Spain, Belgium and Romania, Russia found themselves on their way to Japan when qualification was seemingly out of the question.
As Rugby World Cup 2019 draws ever closer, David Challis continues his look at the tier two nations competing in Japan. Russia will have a tough task ahead of them but there are reasons to be hopeful for Lyn Jones’ side.
Russia’s Rugby World Cup History
Russia has a sparse Rugby World Cup history. After declining their invitation to the 1987 World Cup on political grounds it was not until 2011 that they next qualified. Due to the political problems of the late twentieth century, many nations refused to play Russia and as a result, their progress was halted.
During their time at the 2011 World Cup Russia failed to gain any wins but impressed many. They put three tries past the likes of Italy and Australia. They also defended admirably in a tense affair against the USA in which they only lost 6-13.
However, after their qualification in 2011 they failed to repeat the feat in 2015, losing out to Uruguay for the final spot. This makes Russia one of the most inexperienced sides at the tournament and thus many have low expectations for them.
Russia’s Recent Form
As we know Russia on form alone did not do enough to qualify for the Rugby World Cup. As a result, there is little to shout about in terms of their recent form. They finished fourth in the Rugby Europe Cup only defeating Belgium and Germany.
However what Russia lack in terms of pure results they in part make up for in attacking flair. They have scored 20 or more points in five of their games this year and also managed to put a couple of tries past Italy.
This demonstrates what this Russia side is all about. They look to attack rather than contain and as a result they may be on the end of some big results in Japan but they should score some points of their own.
3 Key Players to Watch
Artemyev is one of the most capped Russia players in history and the most experienced at the Rugby World Cup. He has been on one of Russia’s wings since 2009 and will look to use all that experience to nab some more tries in Japan.
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Morozov is one of the few Russian players with a professional contract outside of Russia. He currently plays for Sale Sharks and scored a try in his man of the match performance against Leicester in March. He is a nasty prop who will look to stabilize a potentially shaky Russian pack.
Simplikevich is another flying winger for the Russian. However, he fits more into the Julian Savea mold. He looks to run at defenders rather than around them. So expect him to be extremely physical when it comes to Japan.
Russia’s Chances at the Rugby World Cup
Realistically Russia is unlikely to find their first Rugby World Cup win in Japan. However whereas other sides will be looking to contain the opposition and keep the score down, Russia will be doing the opposite.
Expect them to attack from the off and try to score as many points a possible. This may result in conceding a number of tries as well. However, hopefully, we will be able to watch Russia’s performances and find a number of highlights. They may not be able to pull off an upset but Russia may be able to play their way into the hearts and minds of the supporters in Japan.
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