Russia have little time to consider their bitter disappointment at the many wasted opportunities in their game with the USA before they face a tough challenge against Italy in Nelson next week.
Prior to the start of the tournament, Nikolay Nerush and his side will have been aware of the threat posed by this ever improving Italian outfit but that was underlined by their opponents’ performance against Australia last weekend.
Nick Mallett’s side were holding the mighty Wallabies to 6-6 draw at half time before capitulating somewhat in the second period. Nevertheless, the overall performance showed that the team are a considerable force in what many see as the second tier of International rugby.
Russia for their part will know that they have probably missed their best chance of recording a win at their first ever World Cup tournament but they will still need to address the issues that arose from their defeat at the hands of the US.
One of the main areas of concern for Nerush will be the form of Yury Kushnarev who held his nerve initially to kick Russia into an early lead but his kicking fell apart from that point on. Kushnarev missed the easiest chance of the night before duties were switched to Konstantin Rachkov.
It was Rachkov that secured the three points that set up a tense finish to the game but you feel that Nerush will keep faith with Kushnarev for the Italy match.
Kicking and handling errors were doubtless compounded by the dreadful weather conditions that have become such a part of the opening rounds of this World Cup and they have certainly had a considerable influence in the score lines in some of these matches.
However, as the cliché goes, ‘it’s the same for both sides’ and if Russia are met with similar conditions in Nelson next Tuesday, they will have to improve in the way that they adapt.
After the opening games for these sides you could be forgiven for thinking that next Tuesday’s game is something of a foregone conclusion but the surprising news has come through that Mallett has made twelve changes to the Italian starting line up for this fixture.
Clearly, the coach must think that the Italians are in with a chance of qualification and the pivotal match in their campaign will be against Ireland at the beginning of October. Has he underestimated the Russians however and does this move give the Bears any hope of a result?
Italy’s skipper and talisman Sergio Parisse is retained along with Andrea Masi and Tommaso Benvenuti from the Australia game so the side has a good spine. Elsewhere, there are some fresh faces as Mallet rotates his squad.
As for Russia, there is no team news as yet but without the luxury of rotation, Nerush may well name an unchanged side. The multiple changes in the Italy squad offer a mere glimmer of hope to whichever Russian team takes to the field in Nelson, but there is a glimmer there nevertheless.
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