2015: The Story So Far…


Победа в Гонконге

 

With the launch of rugby.ru/eng, here’s a recap of what you might have missed in a busy and eventful 2015 thus far…

 

January

 

Following the disappointment of failing to qualify for Rugby World Cup 2015 at the end of last year, the Rugby Union of Russia began the new year with two major coaching appointments: Alexander Pervukhin returned to the position of head coach of the men’s national XV and Alexander Yanyushkin joined Andrey Sorokin in the role of player-coach for the men’s national sevens team. Meanwhile, an historic milestone was reached when Russia’s Enisei-STM took to the field against Portugal’s CDUL, with the Krasnoyarsk side becoming the first Russian club team to take part in European competition as they entered the qualifying tournament for the 2015/6 European Challenge Cup, notching up a win in Lisbon.

 

February

 

February saw the return of international competition and the start of the 2015-2016 European Nations Cup. A tough opening 43-20 loss to Spain in Madrid was followed by a second-half fightback spearheaded by a captain’s hat-trick by Vasily Artemyev for a 22-46 win over divisional returnees Germany. With an eye on building toward RWC 2019 qualifying, Coach Pervukhin promised to give his younger players a chance as Russia resumed a long-standing rivalry against Romania. Fly-half Ramil Gaisin stepped up, kicking 11 points in a 16-13 victory, the Bears’ first over the Oaks in six years to-the-day. On the other side of the world, Russia’s women’s sevens team began their year in Brazil, eventually defeating the hosts to place seventh after strong pool play performances against Canada and England.

 

March

 

Some stalwarts of the men’s national team remained in camp with the Sevens team, prepping for the Hong Kong Sevens qualifying tournament which promised the winners core status on the World Rugby Sevens World Series. Most notable among them was Vladimir Ostroushko, who put in a Dream Team display capped by an after-the-buzzer play for an unforgettable try in the tournament final to beat Zimbabwe and secure the massively important promotion to the main circuit. Ostroushko wasn’t the only Russian Sevens star picking up Dream Team recognition in March, with Nadezhda Kudinova picking up the honours as she shone in Russia’s fourth-place finish at the Atlanta Sevens.

Next up in the ENC was a trip to Tbilisi , never a happy hunting ground for the Bears. Despite keeping the game tight for the first hour, a fatigued Russia fell away to the too-strong Georgia toward the end, going down 33-0 and extending the long-running drought against the Lelos. The final round of the 2015 edition of the ENC saw Portugal travel to Sochi, where a sensational solo try from Alexei Shcherban finally put away a resilient Lobos side 21-8, a result which saw the Bears finish fourth for the season on 13 points as Georgia deservedly secured another title.

Elsewhere, there were also promising signals for the future as Russia’s Under 18s retained their European Division A title without conceding a point in a dominant display in Sweden.

 u18divA

April

 

There were more historic moments in April, with Russia’s women scoring a breakthrough win over Australia to reach the Langford Sevens semi-final, where they dispatched France to reach a first ever Women’s Sevens World Series final. New Zealand proved too strong in the end, but a new leaf was turned in Russian women’s rugby. At the heart of the effort again was Kudinova, who was again voted to the tournament’s Dream Team.

April also saw club rugby move to the fore, as Enesei-STM defeated Italian side Mogliano to advance in their quest for Challenge Cup rugby. Meanwhile, crosstown rivals Krasny Yar played four games against English Aviva Premiership clubs’ A teams, scoring wins over Bristol United and Sale Jets in their Russian Rugby Premier League (RRPL) warm-ups.

 

May

 

 Енисей в Кубке Вызова

After bringing with them a 10-point advantage from the away leg against Romanian champions Baia Mare, Enisei-STM began May knowing a repeat performance in Sochi would qualify them for European Rugby proper next season. A commanding 33-12 (63-32 on aggregate) victory means the Siberians will now be the first-ever Russian club side to play in the Challenge Cup.

The RRPL itself then kicked-off in full, while World Rugby’s Get into Rugby Europe (GiR) held launches across Russia, including in Krasnodar, Krasnoyarsk, and the hugely promising Republic of Dagestan in the North Caucasus.

Injuries at the London Sevens forced Coach Pavel Baranovsky to turn to new faces for the following Amsterdam leg, where Russia finished 8th to end the Women’s Sevens World Series in 7th overall. Kudinova capped a breakout year with a place on the Series Dream Team and one of four nominations for World Rugby’s Women’s Sevens Player of the Year.

The month closed with delegates from Russia’s partners in the English RFU’s Unity Project – Berkshire and Middlesex – travelling to Moscow for the launch event, where they attended an U12 tournament in Zelenograd showcasing 36 teams from across the country – some travelling for three days to take part in the rugby festival!

 Питер-3

June

 

June kicked-off with Moscow hosting round 1 of the European GPS series, a sevens competition with added importance with places up for grabs at the Rio Olympics and the repechage qualifying tournaments. The hosts fell to eventual series victors France in the final, but set themselves up well for a chance at progressing with a silver medal finish. That was followed up by a sixth place finish in Lyon, setting up intriguing possibilities for qualification in the final round in Exeter.

Meanwhile, the northern capital of St. Petersburg became the latest Russian city to host a GiR launch and was followed by Kazan, the Tatar capital which also hosted the first leg of the Women’s Sevens qualifying tournament. Russia’s women put on a show for the home crowd, defeating France in the final for the tournament win. The tables were turned in Brive the following week, when France beat Russia in the semis and won the tournament to secure Olympic qualification. Russia rebounded to beat England in the third-place play-off to secure the runner’s-up spot and a place at Olympic global repechage.

Elsewhere, Enisei-STM learnt their European Challenge Cup fate, drawing Ireland’s Connacht, England’s Newcastle Falcons, and former European Champions Brive in the 2015/6 Challenge Cup .

 IMG_1810

July

 

The national XV returned to action in July, taking part in a two-test series against RWC 2015 participants Namibia in Windhoek. With Sevens/Olympics priorities laying elsewhere, Coach Pervukhin rested a number of players. Two close first-halves were followed by two comprehensive wins (39-19, 45-5) for the hosts.

All eyes were on Exeter meanwhile, as men’s European Olympic Sevens qualifying came down to the wire, a fourth place finish behind Spain meaning Russia had to go through European repechage in Lisbon later in the month. There was a second qualifying tournament victory of the year, which saw the Bears seal a place alongside the country’s women in global repechage, set to take place in 2016.

Other notable events in July saw further engagement with the Unity Project and the Rugby Union of Russia’s Russian-language Twitter feed top 50k followers on the social network.

 

Still to come…

 

Despite not being part of the festivities at RWC 2015 in England, there is still a lot of rugby to look forward to for Russia’s national teams in 2015. The men’s national XV will take part in the 2015 Cup of Nations in Hong Kong against the hosts, Portugal and Zimbabwe in November, while the men’s Sevens join the World Series as a Core Team in Australia in October and the women have the start of their Series to look forward to in Dubai to close the year. Enisei-STM’s European bow comes in November following the conclusion of the domestic league. There’s a lot to look forward to, follow all the latest news and developments at rugby.ru/eng and @russiarugby on Twitter!