Russia national rugby union team
|Union||Rugby Union of Russia|
|Head coach||Mark McDermott|
|Most caps||Yuri Kushnarev (94)|
|Top scorer||Yuri Kushnarev (667)|
|Top try scorer||Vasily Artemyev (27)|
|Home stadium||Sochi Central Stadium|
|World Rugby ranking|
|Current||19 (as of 21 May 2018)|
Russia 27–23 Barbarian F.C.|
(Moscow, Russia; 6 June 1992)
Denmark 7–104 Russia|
(Copenhagen, Denmark; 13 May 2000)
Japan 75–3 Russia|
(Tokyo, Japan; 6 November 2010)
|Appearances||1 (First in 2011)|
|Best result||Pool stage, 2011|
The Russia national rugby union team (Russian: Сборная России по регби, Sbornaya Rossii po regbi), nicknamed the Bears, is administered by the Rugby Union of Russia (RUR). The RUR is considered the official successor union of the Soviet Union by World Rugby and the combined CIS team which played in the early 1990s. Since 1992, the team has played as Russia. Its first test match as Russia was against the Barbarians in Moscow in June 1992 and the country's first test against an official Test nation was against Belgium later that same year.
Russia is seen as a Tier 2 union by World Rugby. The team's regular international competition is in the Rugby Europe Championship – often referred to as the Six Nations B. In addition, the team participates in World Rugby-run summer tournaments including the Nations Cup, the dormant Churchill Cup, and other international fixtures.
Russia competed in their first Rugby World Cup (RWC) in New Zealand in 2011 after qualifying as Europe 2 through their second-place finish in the 2009–10 ENC. Russia played in Pool C and finished fifth, scoring one point. Previous qualification campaigns saw elimination to Portugal ahead of the 2007 tournament and expulsion from 2003 qualifying for breaches of eligibility rules. The team also unsuccessfully attempted to qualify for the 1995 and 1999 Rugby World Cups. They will compete in the World Cup in Japan by qualifying as Europe 1 as a result of Spain, Romania and Belgium being eliminated.
- 1 History
- 2 Rugby World Cup
- 3 European Nations Cup
- 4 Current players
- 5 Coaching staff
- 6 Home grounds
- 7 Recent and upcoming fixtures
- 8 World Rugby Rankings
- 9 Overall record
- 10 Individual records
- 11 Other international teams
- 12 See also
- 13 References
- 14 External links
The Rugby Union of the Soviet Union was founded in 1936, although the national side did not play its first official international until 1974.
The Soviet Union took time to establish itself, but by the mid-1980s was regularly beating the likes of Italy and Romania. The team was invited to the inaugural 1987 Rugby World Cup, but declined on political grounds, not least the continued IRB membership of apartheid South Africa.
Following the breakup of the USSR, Russian players played for the interim Commonwealth of Independent States team, which played four matches during 1991 and 1992.
The first game played by the new Russian national team took place on June 6, 1992, when Russia beat the Barbarians 27–23. Russia's first game against a full IRB member was versus Belgium four months later in the 1992/4 FIRA-AER European Trophy. That edition of the tournament saw Russia secure its first, and to-date only, win over Georgia. Russia continued to participate until realignment of FIRA-AER competitions in 2000.
The Russian national side has since played its regular competitive rugby in FIRA-AER's European Nations Cup, the second level mirror tournament to the Six Nations. Russia replaced Morocco in the top tier in 2001 after a team-record nine-game win streak and have stayed there ever since. The Russian side has yet to win the title, but has come close with second-place finishes twice, in the 2009 and the 2007-8 editions. It also secured second place in the 2009–10 combined table used in Rugby World Cup qualification.
In addition, as part of attempts to secure regular international fixtures the team has played in the now-defunct Superpowers Cup, winning the tournament once, the Nations Cup, the Churchill Cup, and most recently the IRB's International Rugby Series. The Russian side has also played representative teams including England Counties, France's equivalent side, South African Super Rugby youth and university sides, and New Zealand club teams as it seeks to vary and improve the quality of opposition.
The RUR has been attempting to gain greater participation in the autumn test window, and is now being integrated into World Rugby's global test match schedule.
Rugby World Cup
World Cup record
|World Cup record||World Cup Qualification record|
|1991||Did not enter||Did not enter|
|1995||Did not qualify||4||3||0||1||125||49|
|2007||Did not qualify||14||6||1||7||382||323|
|2015||Did not qualify||12||7||0||5||269||300|
Early qualifying attempts (1987 – 2007)
The Soviet Union declined to take up its invite to take part in the inaugural 1987 Rugby World Cup on the basis of the IRB membership by apartheid South Africa. The Soviet Rugby Union was not an IRB member in time for 1991 Rugby World Cup qualifying.
In qualifying for the 1995 Rugby World Cup, the first in which the national side was involved, Russia came through preliminary qualifying with wins over Poland and Georgia, before beating Germany but losing to Romania for the Eastern Europe spot.
The Russian national side was expelled from qualifying for the 2003 Rugby World Cup, due to eligibility issues. Spain, who Russia had beaten in qualifying, protested the fielding of three South African-born players (Johan Hendriks, Reiner Volschenck and Werner Pieterse), whom the RUR claimed had qualified through ancestry. However, the RUR did not produce documentation deemed acceptable by the IRB, and Spain were re-instated in qualification in Russia's place.
In 2007 Rugby World Cup qualifying, Russia came through European qualifying to a mini-group stage where they were pooled with Italy and Portugal. The winner would qualify directly and the second place team would continue the qualification process, with the third-placed team eliminated. After both losing heavily to Italy, Portugal and Russia met to determine progression to qualifying round 5. Russia lost the match, played in Lisbon, 26–23 and dropped out.
Russia qualified for the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand as Europe 2 after finishing second in the 2008–10 European Nations Cup. This marked the team's World Cup debut, with Russia becoming the 25th side to play at the tournament, where they faced Australia, Ireland, Italy and the United States in Group C of the tournament.
Despite losing all four of their games, most disappointingly a narrow defeat to the USA in its opening fixture in which the Bears scored a bonus point, Russia's debut was generally viewed as a success, as the team scored the most tries (8) by a debutant in the professional era, and the most since Western Samoa in 1991, and becoming the first side to score three tries against Australia in a World Cup match since 1987.
|15 Sep 2011||United States||6–13||Stadium Taranaki, New Plymouth|
|20 Sep 2011||Italy||17–53||Trafalgar Park, Nelson|
|25 Sep 2011||Ireland||12–62||International Stadium, Rotorua|
|1 Oct 2011||Australia||22–68||Trafalgar Park, Nelson|
The Russian national rugby union team finished third in European qualifying for the 2015 Rugby World Cup. The top two teams in the final group— Georgia and Romania — immediately qualified for the 2015 tournament. Russia, as third-place finisher in the final group, faced Uruguay in a home-and-away two-game playoff. Uruguay won on aggregate and secured the 20th and final qualifying spot for the 2015 tournament, with Russia failing to qualify.
The Russian national rugby union team once again finished third in European qualifying for the 2019 Rugby World Cup. However, after a controversial game played by Belgium and Spain (which was originally intended to be replayed), the issue of three teams in the group stage fielding ineligible players (Belgium, Romania, and Spain) was investigated by World Rugby and Rugby Europe. It was determined that all three teams had violated eligibility rules and gained an unfair advantage (both Romania and Spain defeated Russia by slim margins) and were sanctioned, and thus, Russia advanced as the automatic qualifier, with Germany headed to the repechage against Portugal.
European Nations Cup
As the Soviet Union, the side secured four straight silvers (all behind France and ahead of Italy and Romania) during the 1980s, and a further three bronzes.
Russia first played the FIRA Trophy in the 1992–94 season. Since 2000, Russia's primary international competition is the European Nations Cup, administered by Rugby Europe and played, by-and-large, during the Six Nations international release window in February and March. Russia won the inaugural Division 2 competition, winning promotion to the top tier in 2000, where they have remained ever since.
Since realignment, Russia has secured two runners-up spots and three third-place finishes, in doing so claiming the third-highest number of wins, the third-highest win percentage, and the third-lowest number of losses, in each case placing below Georgia and Romania.
In the 2011-12 season, Russia finished fourth with five wins and five losses. In the 2013-14 season, the team finished third with six wins and four losses. In the 2015-16 season, the Bears again claimed six wins and four losses to finish third. In the 2017 season, Russia finished fourth with two wins and three losses.
Russia has traditionally fielded squads consisting near-entirely of players from its own professional league, but as players gain exposure, several players have represented their country while playing club rugby overseas, including Vasily Artemyev, the first Russian to play in the Aviva Premiership and locks Andrey Ostrikov, and Kirill Kulemin.
Head Coach: Mark McDermott
- Caps Updated: 16 June 2018
Note: Flags indicate national union for the club/province as defined by World Rugby.
The current head coach is ex-Munster hooker Mark McDermott.
Former head coach is Alexander Pervukhin, who returned to the position following a long break retains strong links to 2016 Russian Rugby Premier League Champions Enisei-STM in Krasnoyarsk.
Prior to Pervukhin, former Wales flanker Kingsley Jones was the most recent coach, with Siua Taumalolo and Darren Morris his assistants. He left in 2014 to take up a coaching role with the Newport Gwent Dragons in Wales. Raphaël Saint-André, brother of French coach Philippe Saint-André, then coached the team for the final two matches of the 2015 Rugby World Cup qualifying matches against Uruguay.
The Russian rugby team has no fixed national stadium at present, although Central Stadium in Sochi is currently serving that function in interim.
Russia has hosted international fixtures at a number of venues around the country. These include the rugby hotbed of Krasnoyarsk in Siberia, where the national side played its first full test against a foundation union, versus Ireland in 2002. Other games have been played in Moscow, normally at Slava Stadium in the city centre, Penza, and most recently at the Black Sea resort of Sochi. Sochi was selected as a case of convenience, as climatic conditions in other venues have proved too severe to guarantee playability during the ENC's February–March window. Support in Sochi is minimal and it is hoped that the completion of a stadium for the VVA-Podmoskovye club in Monino, Moscow region, with full undersoil heating will allow international fixtures to be played closer to Russian rugby's support bases. Sports Minister Vitaliy Mutko has promised this will be completed by 2013.
Recent and upcoming fixtures
The following table shows the fixtures of the Russian national team in official test matches during the previous 12 months.
World Rugby Rankings
On introduction of the World Rugby Rankings in October 2003, Russia was ranked 23rd. Since then the team's lowest ranking was 26 (most recently in October 2005). The team's ranking peaked at 16 on several occasions (most recently in February 2010). As of November 15, 2016, Russia is ranked 21st in the world.
Below is table of the representative rugby matches played by a Russia national XV at test level up until 17 June 2018.
Other international teams
Russia also has a rugby sevens team, which competes in several rounds each year on the World Rugby Sevens Series and in the FIRA-AER Grand Prix Sevens circuit, with Moscow hosting the second leg. The sevens team has recorded wins against Tier 1 nations and recorded their first top eight finish at the 2011 Hong Kong Sevens, and a Bowl win in Glasgow in 2012. The team is two-time European Champion (2007 and 2009), making it the second most successful team at that tournament.
Russia's women field national rugby union teams in both fifteens, where it appeared at the Women's Rugby World Cup in 1994 and 1998 as Russia and in 1991 as the USSR, and in sevens, which took part in the first Women's Rugby World Cup Sevens in 2009 and which contests the IRB Women's Sevens World Series.