Russia taught tough rugby lesson on British tour
Russia's tour of the UK was always going to be tough even though the four sides they played – Northampton, the Dragons, the Ospreys and Gloucester – were all under strength.
Each game gave the World Cup debutants a baptism of fire, showing them what they're likely to face when the tournament gets under way.
Russia’s coach Kingsley Jones realizes that it’s a tough task to compete against the best club players, who train and play together every week.
“It’s the right thing for this squad to be challenged and get used to this intensity,” he explained.
One particularly worrying area for the Russians is the scrum. In their game against the Gwent Dragons, the visitors' pack was regularly on the back foot and was under a lot of pressure, even on their own put-ins.
The good thing is that the level of scrummaging the Russians will face at the World Cup is unlikely to be much higher than they faced on their tour of the UK.
“The scrums are always a worry for us at the moment. And I can’t give young props ten years’ experience in five weeks. All we can do is keep working as hard as we can,” Kingsley said.
Silly mistakes also cost Russia. They were often far too slow at the breakdown, while there were also too many missed tackles, which proved costly.
The one thing that the team should be getting right is their set-pieces, where unfortunately there were also too many errors, while the team’s goal- kicking was also poor.
Scoring opportunities will be at a premium for the Russians in New Zealand. Therefore their goal-kickers must try to capitalise on every opportunity to score points with the boot.
There have been some plus points too, despite these heavy defeats. In particular, Russia's backs have looked very dangerous when given time and space to run from deep. However, it is up to the forwards to try and win quick ball for the backs, in order to give them a better attacking platform.
Russia will have been training for one hundred days by the time the Rugby World Cup gets underway, and a lot of effort has been put into the team's fitness.
The first match of the campaign is against the USA in New Plymouth on September 15.
The two teams have already played each other in the Churchill Cup in June, with the States coming out on top by seven points.
However, given the huge test they faced during their tour of the UK, the Russians will be targeting that game as the game to win.