Vasily Artemyev had a hand in a couple of Russia’s tries in their win over Zimbabwe – Photo: Masha Anderson, IRB
Vasily Artemyev had a hand in a couple of Russia’s tries in their win over Zimbabwe – Photo: Masha Anderson
Russia remain in the hunt for the final place at Rugby World Cup 2015 after beating Zimbabwe 23-15 in their Repechage semi-final in Krasnoyarsk on Saturday.
The Bears, bidding to reach a second consecutive tournament, will now face the winner of the match later today in Montevideo between Uruguay and Hong Kong for the right to join hosts England, Australia, Wales and Fiji in Pool A at RWC 2015.
Arch-rivals Krasny Yar (in green) and Yenisey-STM battle it out for Krasnoyarsk’s bragging rights. Photo: IRB
The choice of England as the host nation for next year’s Rugby World Cup is a fitting one, as it is of course the birthplace of the game. There is a good sense of continuity after the 2011 edition in New Zealand, as the Land of the Long White Cloud is considered one of the sport’s great heartlands. There is a sense of the battle for the Webb Ellis Cup moving from one side of the world to the other.
The southern Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk may not be the geographical halfway point between Eden Park and Twickenham but it is not too far from it at nearly 8,000 miles from Auckland and almost 4,500 miles from London. So, perhaps it is apt that the Russian city is to play host to the Rugby World Cup 2015 qualifier between Russia and Zimbabwe with a place in the repechage final against either Uruguay or Hong Kong up for grabs.
Krasnoyarsk is a city that represents the love and passion for rugby outside the traditional strength of Europe’s Six Nations and the southern hemisphere hotbeds of New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and Argentina. Irish rugby fans may be somewhat familiar with the city as it played host to Ireland in 2002 as part of the qualification process for Rugby World Cup 2003.
Russia’s talisman and fly-half, Yury Kushnarev. Photo: Getty Images
Ahead of their crucial Rugby World Cup 2015 repechage semi-final against Zimbabwe on 2 August, Russia invited Total Rugby behind the scenes, including one trailblazer with rugby in his blood.
While many of Russia’s players have converted from more mainstream sports to get to the top of international rugby, star fly-half Yury Kushnarev was seemingly born to play the game.
“I was born in a small town close to Moscow called Monino. My father played for the Soviet Union national team and they were based there. My brother started playing rugby, and then me, and we are still playing,” explained Kushnarev, who appeared in his country’s first ever Rugby World Cup in New Zealand in 2011 and has amassed a record 425 points from 63 Tests.
Zimbabwe plays Kenya in the CAR tournament in Madagascar. Photo: IRB
After narrowly missing out on victory in the CAR Africa Cup last Sunday, Zimbabwe face the journey to Siberia where they will take on Russia in the town of Krasnoyarsk.
The one-off match – the first ever meeting between the two countries – will take place on Saturday 2 August, and will be refereed by Nigel Owens of Wales with fellow countrymen Sean Brickell and Wayne Davies appointed as assistant referees.
Following the conclusion of the CAR Africa Cup, Zimbabwe are currently ranked 27th in the IRB World Rankings – seven places below the Bears, who have yet to taste victory since Raphael Saint-Andre replaced Kingsley Jones as head coach for the IRB Nations Cup in June.
Namibia celebrate yesterday after winning the Africa Cup and a spot in Pool C of the RWC 2015. Photo: IRB
Namibia yesterday qualified for Rugby World Cup 2015 after claiming the Confederation Africaine de Rugby Division 1A title in dramatic fashion in Antananarivo.
Needing to win their final match against Madagascar by 53 points, the 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011 participants produced an inspired performance to run out 89-10 winners, claim the Africa Cup and a place alongside New Zealand, Argentina, Tonga and Georgia in Pool C at England 2015.
At the beginning of a gripping day, the Namibians were outside hopefuls at best, but Zimbabwe’s 28-10 win against Kenya, denying the Kenyan’s a losing bonus point, while failing to secure a bonus point of their own, left the door ajar for the seasoned Rugby World Cup campaigners.
Humphrey Kayange has his eyes set on staring down the Haka. Photo: rwc
Kenya star Humphrey Kayange says that qualifying for RWC 2015 in England and facing the All Blacks would be like a dream come true.
By avoiding defeat against Zimbabwe in the final round of Confederation Africaine de Rugby Africa Cup Division 1A matches in Antananarivo on Sunday Kenya would confirm their place at England 2015 – the nation’s first appearance on Rugby’s greatest stage.
The Africa Cup champions will join champions New Zealand, Argentina, Tonga and Georgia in Pool C and for Kayange, a star of the Sevens circuit, qualification would be a career highlight.
“Qualifying would mean an awful lot to Kenya, the team and our fans, who are amazing. It would be like a dream come true to play New Zealand in the Pool stages and face the Haka – it is something that we dream about,” Kayange said.
Nelson Mandela hands the Webb Ellis Cup to Francois Pienaar at RWC 1995. Photo: IRB
The race for Rugby World Cup qualification resumes in Africa this weekend, with Kenya, Madagascar, Namibia and Zimbabwe set to compete for the continent’s one direct qualifier spot at RWC 2015.
All four teams will play each other at the Mahamasina Stadium in Madagascar between June 28 and July 6, with the top placed team set to book their place in Pool C alongside New Zealand, Argentina, Georgia and Tonga. The runner-up will then have an opportunity to secure the 20th and final berth at next year’s tournament through the Repechage.
Rugby is experiencing unprecedented levels of popularity in Africa, but with the exception of the continent’s traditional powerhouse, South Africa, no African side has managed to break the glass ceiling of the group stages at a Rugby World Cup.