Planet Rugby

Preview: Russia v USA

09th November 2012 06:19

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Chris Wyles in action for USA

Full-back: Chris Wyles

Russia will be out for revenge against the United States when the two traditional sporting rivals go head to head in Colwyn Bay on Friday.

Rugby fans throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland have been used to November being international time but North Wales joins the global action when the inaugural IRB International Rugby Series kicks off at Eirias Park.

Colwyn Bay will host five World Cup teams across the next two weekends as Tonga, Samoa, Russia, Canada and the USA battle it out.

With Tonga and Samoa already directly qualified for the 2015 RWC in England, the Bears, Canucks and Eagles will be looking to lay down a marker for the months ahead as they hope to join them through the global qualification process.

But back to the match at hand, which sees the USA (17th on the IRB rankings) take on Russia (19) in a re-run of their 2011 RWC pool match-up.

The Russians last and only victory over the United State was way back in 1988 (31-16 in Moscow). Since then, the Eagles have won the rest of their encounters although the margin of victory has reduced on each occasion.

Be that as it may, recent victories in last year's Churchill Cup (32-25) and World Cup (13-6) will make the USA favourites to once again tame the Bears who warmed up for this match with a 29-15 win over Oxford University.

The Russians ran in five tries in Oxford, including two for full-back Denis Simplikevich, but coach Kingsley Jones is likely to be concerned about conceding 15 points to a team of students.

Russia's last tournament outing was in the 2012 IRB Nations Cup in Romanoa, where Jones' troops finished second-last on the championship standings with one win to their name. The USA, meanwhile, also lost two of their three outings in June - going down to Canada and Italy, but getting the better of Georgia.

"We hope to pick up from some of the strides we made in June," said Eagles head coach Mike Tolkin.

"We feel the team systems and culture have taken root and that we can play with more confidence. Our goal is to try to win the series."

Tolkin's plan is to provide players a chance to solidify their positions heading into 2013, as well as gain valuable experience in the national team.

"We look forward to seeing the new players on the squad show what they can do at this level, and we hope they can add value," he added.

"We also look for the squad veterans to take leadership positions and play fundamentally sound and exciting rugby, with an uncompromising mental toughness."

The 30-man Russian squad features 13 of the players who impressed in Russia's first Rugby World Cup appearance last year, while Northampton Saints wing Vasily Artemyev is expected to be added for this clash.

Putting aside the traditional rivalries that exist between these two nations - many of which extend beyond the sporting arena - coach Jones and his men will be aware that a victory will go a long way in booking their place at RWC 2015.

With time ticking down until rugby's showpiece event in three years time, Jones is eager to put building blocks in place to ensure that they hit the ground running.

"Along with Romania, Russia is usually classed just behind the likes of Fiji, Canada and the USA, so we really need to get some results against the USA and Canada over the next couple of weeks in order to try to climb the rankings," said Jones.

"Our Rugby World Cup qualification starts in earnest in the New Year, so while I've experimented with a large number of players during the past 12 months, we're bringing our best available players to Wales to really try and make a mark."

Prediction: Simply because neither side gets much publicity outside its own country, picking this match relies more on recent history than anything else. On that score the USA has a slight edge. Eagles by six!

The teams:

Russia: 15 Igor Klyuchnikov, 14 Denis Simplikevich, 13 Vasily Artemyev, 12 Alexey Makovetskiy, 11 Vladimir Ostroushko, 10 Sergey Sugrobov, 9 Alexey Shcherban, 8 Victor Gresev, 7 Pavel Butenko, 6 Andrey Temnov, 5 Kirill Kulemin, 4 Alexander Voytov (capt), 3 Evgeny Pronenko, 2 Valery Tsnobiladze, 1 Grigory Tsnobiladze.
Replacements: 16 Vladislav Korshunov, 17 Alexey Volkov, 18 Innokentiy Zykov, 19 Andrey Garbuzov, 20 Ramil Gaysin, 21 Gleb Babkin, 22 Vladimir Boltenkov, 23 Dmitry Gerasimov.

USA: 15 Chris Wyles, 14 Cornelius Dirksen, 13 Paul Emerick, 12 Andrew Suniula, 11 Luke Hume, 10 Toby L'Estrange, 9 Robbie Shaw, 8 Todd Clever (capt), 7 John Quill, 6 Scott LaValla, 5 Louis Stanfill, 4 Brian Doyle, 3 Eric Fry, 2 Chris Biller, 1 Shawn Pittman.
Replacements: 16 Zachary Fenoglio, 17 Nick Wallace, 18 Tony Purpura, 19 Inaki Basauri, 20 Peter Dahl, 21 Mike Petri, 22 Rolan Suniula, 23 Gearoid McDonald.

Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)

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