Russia’s tough road to Rugby World Cup

Russia lost to a spirited Argentina A side in a gritty encounter in Moscow on Saturday.

Despite matching the touring Jaguars side in most departments, Russia struggled to counter some of the enterprising maneuvers of their opposition, going down 32-6 after losing the previous week 40-20.

Russia’s physical game was on display from the outset, exhibiting solid defense and passionate scrummaging. Some missed penalty kicks made the score-line look worse than it should have been, but some masterful ball-handling from the Argentine side provided some entertaining tries, which sealed Russia’s fate regardless.

Russian coach Steve Diamond told RT that some valuable lessons were learned, particularly regarding some ill-discipline at the breakdown. He plans to take his side to New Zealand in January to give them some experience of life in a culture that lives and breathes rugby. It is also the venue for the next Rugby World Cup later in the year, so the trip will be something of a training run for long-haul flights as well.

Former New Zealand and England dual-international Henry Paul, who is now the Russians’ skills coach, believes there is plenty of work to be done, but is optimistic about the improvements that can be made within the side.

Russia has done well to qualify for the World Cup, particularly in view of the sport’s low profile at home and a lack of significant competition regionally. Although the Argentina side was a second-string outfit, it should be noted that their First XV came third in the last World Cup, so they are no rugby minnows.

Clashes such as yesterday’s match can only assist the development of rugby in Russia, which, given the enthusiasm of the intrepid crowd who came to watch in bleak conditions, seems to have a bright future.

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