Russia’s preparation for the Rugby World Cup, due to start in just a couple of weeks time, will have left them with no illusions about the level of the challenge facing them. In four matches against top-flight English and Welsh club sides, the Russian team managed not a single victory – nor, it has to be said, did they even manage to run one of their opponents close.
Here’s the results list – it doesn’t make particularly pretty reading:
Northampton Saints 54 – 19 Russia
Newport Gwent Dragons 40 – 12 Russia
Ospreys 49 – 19 Russia
Gloucester 47 – 7 Russia
Here’s a video report, coutesy of Russia Today:
Russia’s coaching team of Kinglsey Jones, Henry Paul and Nikolay Nerush will be particularly worried at the way their defence performed. Although it has to be said that defending against tough professional teams like these is always going to be a tall order, they’ll be desperately disappointed that their defence didn’t manage to hold any of their opponents to less than 40 points. The Russian scrum also looked out of its depth. There is clearly a lot of work to be done in these areas over the next couple of weeks.
They’ll be more pleased, though, at Russia’s performance going forward. Twice the Bears managed to score three tries, albiet against rusty opposition. This demonstrates that Russia have the capacity to break and that, even if they are out of their depth against the bigger teams, they still have a decent chance of getting on the scoreboard.
Also on the plus side – the USA, who are Russia’s biggest competition for the Wooden Spoon in their group, would also have struggled against this opposition, and I’d have been impressed if they managed to come away with a win from any of these matches. Having said that, I suspect that the USA would have given their opposition a much tougher game – it’s clear that none of Russia’s opponents were ever in any danger of being defeated.
I’ll leave you with some video footage of Russia in action. First, their match against Northampton Saints, where you’ll get to see Russia running in three tries:
And second, some footage from the stands of Russia’s match against Newport Gwent Dragons.
If you’re interested in following Russia’s progress in the tournament, be sure to check out our Russian World Cup homepage, where we’ll be covering Russia’s first ever appearance in the rugby world cup.