After the promising signs shown by this Russian rugby side in their opening two matches, the real hard work for Nikolay Nerush and his men starts with this game in Rotorua on September the 25th. This is a point where any hope of a positive result has gone but Russia should be looking for more than just damage limitation from their next two matches.
Ireland are many experts’ outside bet to make a mark at this World Cup and if anyone doubted that claim, their concerns were silenced as Ronan O’Gara’s boot helped to inflict a 15-6 defeat against Australia last weekend. Before the tournament, Russian fears of having a century of points racked up against them would probably have been realised by the Wallabies alone, but it seems that Ireland have just as much chance of handing out a similar humiliation.
While we await team news from both camps, there seems every chance that Ireland will rest some of their first choice stars for this encounter even though Brian O’Driscoll is quoted as saying they would not treat anyone with disrespect in the wake of their memorable win over the Wallabies.
As for Russia’s line up, they have a quick, four day turnaround ahead of this clash and will be assessing injuries and general fitness before naming their starting XV.
It’s important for everyone not to be too negative before this match and it can also pay to avoid the old sporting cliché that suggests Russia are just ‘playing for pride’. It’s true that Nerush will have been disappointed by the way that his team were overrun in defence by a second string Italian side but there were many positives to take from that game.
Russia ran in three tries to suggest that there is plenty of quality amongst their backs and there is no reason why they can’t score points against the Irish in Rotorua this Sunday. To do so, Vasili Artemyev will need to show the attacking qualities that made Northampton Saints take a chance on him. Artemyev was at the heart of Russia’s fine attacking play against the Italians and he will need to carry that forward against the Irish.
Elsewhere, replacement scrum half Aleksandr Yanyushkin was arguably the man of the match against Italy and he will hope he has done enough to make the starting line up this time.
All across the back line, Russia’s players should be looking forward to this match as a chance to underline their attacking qualities and maybe even catch the eye of some top European scouts at the same time.
Overall, it’s going to be a long eighty minutes for the Bears and Ireland are expected to fully capitalise on their defensive weaknesses by running in as many points as they can.
As for the on-looking Russian supporters across the world, while it’s expected that points will be conceded, we must hope that Russia don’t abandon their attacking play in the hope of restricting Ireland to as few points as possible.
The opponents try line was breached on three occasions against Italy and there’s no reason why Russia can’t repeat that statistic in Rotorua on Sunday.
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