The 2011 tournament will be Russia’s first appearance at a Rugby World Cup, and their qualification, coming just under 20 years after the country’s first ever fixture, is a sign of the rapid growth of rugby union in Russia.
Russia reached the World Cup in New Zealand following a second-place finish in the European Nations Cup. They edged out Spain and Portugal, all previous qualifiers for the Rugby World Cup, finishing behind Georgia to secure passage to New Zealand.
Further evidence of the improvement in Russian rugby lies in the development of players able to play professionally outside of Russia. Castres second-rower Kirill Kulemin is the standard-bearer as far as Russian exports are concerned, but fellow lock Andrey Ostreykov and centre Konstantin Rashkov also play in France
However, a measure of how far Russia still have to go on the world stage came in November 2010 when they were dealt their heaviest ever defeat, 75-3, by Japan in Tokyo. They will have to improve dramatically on that showing to make any sort of mark on the 2011 World Cup.
World Cup squad:
Forwards: Denis Antonov, Vladimir Botvinnikov, Adam Byrnes, Artem Fatakhov, Andrey Garbuzov, Viatcheslav Grachev, Victor Gresev, Alexander Khrokin, Vladislav Korshunov (captain), Evgenii Matveev, Andrey Ostrikov, Sergey Popov, Ivan Prishchepenko, Mikhail Sidorov, Alexey Travkin, Valeriy Tsnobiladze, Alexander Voytov.
Backs: Vasily Artemyev, Mikhail Babaev, Andrey Bykanov, Igor Galinovskiy, Igor Klyuchnikov, Yury Kushnarev, Andrey Kuzin, Alexey Makovetskiy, Vladimir Ostroushko, Konstantin Rachkov, Alexander Shakirov, Denis Simplikevich, Alexander Yanyushkin.
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