Russian rugby team bids farewell to New Zealand

Russia's inaugural Rugby World Cup campaign has ended and the team have flown back to Moscow. The Bears might not have managed to win a game, but they were warmly received by a very appreciative and sometimes fanatical band of local supporters.

Russia lost all four of their group games, but rugby specialists marked their performance in New Zealand as they became the most successful World Cup debutants in history.

Their many fans in New Zealand could not but show their appreciation in what turned out to be an exhilarating experience for the Russian team.

“Of course, we're not really used to this level of attention from the fans and TV. I've signed more autographs here than I've done throughout my life. Here, everyone follows both Russian and global rugby. It's great – it's inspiring – and it gives you the motivation to work even harder,” Russia flanker Mikhail Sidorov said.

A dozen teams are now out of World Cup contention for at least the next four years and there were no surprises among the eight countries that remain, except for the order in which they are playing.

Defending champions South Africa will face Tri-Nations champion Australia while surprise Group C winners Ireland take on Wales. England will test France, while hosts New Zealand meet Argentina.