No rest for Russia’s rugby internationals
Russia's director of Rugby, Steve Diamond, likes a challenge. He has been living on and off in the country for the last couple of years. But the biggest task ahead of the Briton is yet to come.
In nine months’ time, Russia will play in the Rugby World Cup, and Diamond knows he has a lot of work ahead of him.
Russia will be one of the lowest-ranked nations at the World Cup, and the draw has not been favorable to them. They have to play two of the giants of game, Australia and Ireland, while Italy and possibly the USA will also be tough fixtures.
Russia's boss believes his side's strength is with their backs, and will look to move the ball wide as much as possible.
However, it is in defense where they really need to improve. Diamond's side shipped over 70 points recently to fellow minnow's Japan, while back-to-back defeats to Argentina's second-string have not helped either. Diamond says his team has to get fitter.
Diamond is not helped by having a very small pool of players to pick from. With only eight teams in the top division, he realistically only has around 60 players available for selection to the national team.
It will take a miracle for Russia to win the Rugby World Cup – just getting out of the group would be a massive achievement in it self. Diamond says it is important for the current side to keep perspective.
Russia's squad will soon set-off for New Zealand for what Diamond says will be a very tough training camp. He maintains the players do not know what they’re in for. But if it helps the country pull off one or two surprises in September 2011, then it will have been worth it.